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County Council Passes Five-Cent Bag Tax

Law will take effect on Jan 1, 2012.

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.”

snoopy May 04, 2011 at 12:39 PM
This is just another tax it has nothing to do with the environment. When plastic bags were first introduced they pushed it on the consumers saying it was better for the environment because less trees would be cut down. Stores liked the idea because plastic bags were cheaper then paper. If they cared about the environment they would say no more plastic bags and go back to paper. The politicians always look for ways to raise taxes but never look to cut the budget and cut out all THEIR waste.
Renee Sklarew May 04, 2011 at 01:24 PM
If it makes at least one new person bring in their own bags, then it's worth passing! I've annoyed cashiers for years insisting they use my re-usable bags, but with this tax, I hope many new customers will join me. http://www.daretobefabulous.com/guestcolumn2/2008/11/whos-that-old-bag.html
Bob May 04, 2011 at 01:34 PM
So...I'm a guy. I don't have a handbag to carry 5 or 6 extra bags with me every time I go to the mall or shopping center. Sometimes I just go into Best Buy or Target to browse. I'm supposed to pack around bags if I happen to want to pick up some little item? Where am I supposed to put 'em when I go to the restroom? Give me a break!!
Philip Schneider May 05, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Congratulations to Councilmember Floreen! She is the only councilmember who represented the interest of the county citizens by voting against the ridiculous county tax on bags in retail stores. What other stupid ideas from the District will this council adopt? How about providing drug needles to all residents? Or Lincoln Navigator SUV's to council members. I am sure there are many other good ideas to copy. The five cent bag tax is a bad idea. It will cost money to enforce (we are sure to have a department of bag taxation in the Executive Branch) and make for the unhealthy use and re-use of dirty bags. Many residents, myself included, use the current grocery bags to collect waste material at home. That waste will now be spread, be difficult to collect and cause unhealthy conditions. I hope the council members will find more useful activities in the future or reduce their work day and salary if they have nothing better to do.
Renee October 08, 2011 at 01:05 AM
I agree with all Philip Schneider says in his email above - What a ridiculous excuse to increase costs - I for one do reuse the plastic bags for dog waste - now, maybe more people will not pick up after their dogs which will bring far more "litter" than the bags that may fly around. I've never seen such incompetent Council Members in my life as some of these that represent one of the most affluent counties in America. In these days of budget cuts galore..............gimme a break when you state "we do not see this as a source of revenue". Do you Council Members really think we are going to believe that - Want to decrease wasteful spending, eliminate litter and reduce crime?????????GET RID OF SECTION 8 HOUSING THAT IS DESTROYING MONTGOMERY COUNTY...........

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