Five-cent taxes on single-use plastic bags are spreading across Virginia’s more urban localities. On Saturday, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria adopted the local tax ordinances, while Fairfax County adopted a similar ordinance on September 14. The taxes take effect on January 1, 2022.
“Arlington is proud to take this step to reduce plastic bag waste in our community and to do so with our regional partners,” Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said in a press release. “We have long sought the legal authority for this small fee as a way to protect our environment and become a more sustainable community. We look forward to working with residents and neighbors on implementation.”
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted nine to one to ask staff to draft an ordinance for a five-cent single-use plastic bag tax for presentation to the board in September; part of the drafting process includes a period of public outreach.
Supervisor James Walkinshaw introduced the proposal on Tuesday. He said, “There was an environmental survey of the Chesapeake Bay done several years ago and they discovered that the floor of the Chesapeake Bay is littered with plastic bags which is disrupting the habitat and ecosystem of the floor of the Chesapeake Bay, not to mention the micro-particles that come from torn plastic bags that unfortunately make their way into the food supply and the water supply and that all of us are ingesting.”
The Fredericksburg City Council directed city staff to prepare a draft ordinance for a five-cent single-use plastic bag tax. In its Tuesday meeting, most of the city council expressed support for the proposal, introduced by Council Member Kerry Devine.
“The reality is I hope this is a tax we never collect,” Devine told the Council.
The Roanoke City Council is seeking more information and public input before making a decision on a 5-cent single-use plastic bag tax. In a public hearing at Monday evening’s city council meeting, only three speakers spoke, all in favor of the tax. Council members also expressed support for the idea, but worried that the tax would harm businesses and low-income consumers, and might not address the problem of plastic bag pollution.
The Roanoke City Council is considering a five-cent tax on disposable plastic bags, like grocery store or convenience store bags. On Monday, the Council agreed to schedule a public hearing on April 19.
The tax was legalized by the 2020 General Assembly. HB 534, introduced by Delegate Betsy Carr (D-Richmond), and SB 11, introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), authorize localities to enact five-cent taxes on disposable plastic bags and require the localities to use revenue from the tax for environmental cleanup and to provide re-usable bags.