The choice of paper or plastic will soon carry a price for local shoppers. The Montgomery County Council passed a five-cent tax on bags at all retail establishments on Tuesday.
The bill, which will go into effect starting Jan. 1, 2012, is similar to a tax enacted in D.C. a year ago. The county council passed the bill by an 8-1 vote. Councilmember Nancy Floreen cast the single opposing vote.
County Executive Ike Leggett proposed the legislation in early March to encourage residents to use reusable bags and to keep plastic bags from littering the environment.
"Montgomery County has achieved a reputation as a leader in adopting innovative environmental policies, both locally and nationally – from our expansive recycling programs to air and water quality protection and land preservation policies that have often set new standards," Leggett said at a press conference in March. "This new legislation adds another dimension to our environmental accomplishments."
The tax will not apply to bags at pharmacies containing perscription drugs, bags used for newspapers, bags used to carry garbage or pet or yard waste, bags used to take away leftovers from a restaurant or bags at a farmers market. Also, retail establishments will keep one cent for each bag to cover the administration costs.
The county is expected to earn up to $1.5 million from this tax in the first year. This money will go to the Water Quality Protection Fund (WQPF), which covers that stormwater management, watershed restoration and litter clean-up.
"Between now and January 1, 2012, when the legislation takes effect, we will work to educate residents to help them be prepared for the transition to having re-useable bags become part of their shopping routine," Leggett said in a statement on Tuesday.
"This is good for the environment. And, I expect many people who are not already doing this to adjust. We do not see this as a source of revenue. The more people who use reusable bags, the less revenue to the County and that is just fine.”