The Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act of 2009, better known as the Washington D.C. Bag Tax, has now been in effect for 15 days of the 2010 year. The Act obliges stores that sell food and/or alcohol in the District to add 5 cents per paper or plastic bag used to your bill.
Passed in June 2009, the act bans the use of disposable non-recyclable plastic bags and charges consumers for each recyclable paper or plastic bag used to carry purchases. While encouraging the use of environmentally friendly reusable bags instead of petroleum based plastic bags, the proceeds from the tax are split between merchants (1-2 cents) and a special fund focused on cleaning up the Anacostia River (3-4 cents). Lawmakers estimate the Act’s first year will generate about $3.6 million, with that amount likely to decrease as the public becomes more aware and comfortable bringing their own bags when shopping. According to the D.C. Department of the Environment, the fee should remove approximately 47 percent of the trash from tributaries and 21 percent from the main stem of the river.
Washington D.C. will now join the ranks San Francisco and many countries throughout the world in an effort to move away from wasteful and polluting plastic bags and toward greener consumerism practices. San Francisco and Mexico City have banned plastic bags outright while countries such as China, Denmark, and South Africa all tax the use of plastic bags. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said it best, “Wherever the fault lies, the fact of the matter is our country’s becoming inundated with plastic bags and plastic bottles. This is a first step to try to address that issue.”
Don’t have a reusable bag? Don’t want to fork over a nickel at the register? You’re in luck! Stores throughout the District are providing many opportunities to acquire these new hot commodities. A few highlights include Harris Teeter giving away a free reusable bag to customers who use their VIC card and spend $20 or more in a single transaction during the month of January. Safeway is partnering with local nonprofits to hand out around 10,000 reusable bags. Until the 16th, Trader Joes is giving away a free reusable bag with each purchase. Additionally, most expos, conferences, and festivals are prime locations for free reusable bag giveaways. Once you have your reusable bags, you’ll be pleased to find that most stores forced to administer the bag tax are offering up to a 5 cent discount for each reusable bag costumers bring in to use.