The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation (SB11) that allows local counties and cities to impose a 5-cent tax (or surcharge) on plastic bags.
“This year the General Assembly has enabled local governments to apply a modest tax on the use of disposable plastic bags. … For decades, Arlingtonians have been recognizing one-way plastic bags as a significant source of very difficult to manage pollution. The evidence of their long term devastating impact on the environment is mounting and irrefutable." — Takis Karantonis, Member, Arlington County Board
Plastic bags in the recycling bin are yet another problem. Often the sorters just toss the whole bag into the landfill bin because they don’t have time to open the bag and empty out the recyclables. Recyclers should use a kitchen bin for recyclables, dump it in the blue bin, and skip the bag.
THERE IS AN EASY WAY to reduce the amount of plastic in Arlington residents’ lives. Plastic pollution is not “just” an eyesore: the microplastics present in our bodies may affect our immune systems and our fertility, our vulnerability to disease, and our long term health. We don’t know the effect of these microplastics yet, or how much is too much in our livers and spleens. But we do know the environmental impact on rivers and oceans, fish and wildlife.
Enter Eco-Action Arlington, spearheading an effort to make it less likely that the Arlington shopper will stuff five or more plastic bags with groceries and then throw the bags out in the trash. To make this a reality, Eco-Action Arlington is asking residents to sign this petition:
According to Eco-Action Arlington, Americans use over 100 billion plastic bags a year and only 1 percent are recycled. Although it is increasingly common to take a reusable shopping bag to the store, a visit to any Arlington supermarket is proof we are still more likely to grab the plastic bags since they are free.
This year the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation (SB11) that allows local counties and cities to impose a 5-cent tax (or surcharge) on plastic bags. Arlington County has wanted to tax single-use plastic bags, like the District does, but was thwarted by state lawmakers. The culprit? A 19th-century policy known as the Dillon Rule, which says states retain any legal authority not explicitly granted to local governments. All but 11 U.S. states adhere to the rule, although some have carved out “home rule” exceptions that allow localities to make their own decisions. The rule allowed the General Assembly in 2018 to override Arlington’s decision on how it assessed property tax on two golf courses.
A surcharge of 5 cents per bag went into effect in 2010 in Washington, D.C. Of the money collected, one percent goes back to the business, or two percent if the business offers a discount for using your own bag, and the bulk of the surcharge goes to a dedicated fund for cleaning up the Anacostia River or environmental education. The river is showing the positive effects of the tax.
To learn more: