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Is Bag Tax Eco-Chic? Our Readers Respond.

Patch readers respond to last week's poll and post regarding the Montgomery County bag tax.

The Montgomery County bag tax is less than eco-chic, according to our readers.

Of the 79 users who responded to our extraordinarily unscientific poll, 53 felt the tax was more of an eco-fail.

“I don't mind paying taxes for the services we receive, but this nuisance tax should be repealed,”

Maryland blogs and online forums have popped up encouraging residents to contact the county and request a repeal.

A Facebook page dedicated to killing bag taxes nationwide has made multiple posts about the Montgomery County tax, with many commenters calling for a repeal of the vote. 

However, Montgomery County residents have not quite reached the stage of calling for a repeal of the new law, though in Seattle, a city continuously ranked as among the “greenest” in the nation, a similar bag tax was finally rejected by 58 percent of resident voters.

“To our knowledge, we have not received any requests from either residents or retailers to repeal the law,” said Esther Bowring, a public information officer with Montgomery County.

The main concerns the county have heard include problems with setting out recyclable paper in paper bags when the bags are no longer free and the question of simply banning plastic altogether, according to Bowring.

“Most people are aware of the benefits of using reusable bags instead of disposable bags,” Bowring said, adding that “currently, Target, Giant and many major retailers voluntarily offer a credit to customers who already bring their own bags to the checkout counter, further raising awareness about the issue and rewarding shoppers.”

But the issue with our readers is not so much a lack of knowledge about the positives of using reusable bags, but a concern for the county’s method of seemingly punishing shoppers for using the bags rather than rewarding them for not.

“Why not continue encouraging the purchase and usage of [reusable bags] by making them accessible at a reasonable cost to county residents,” suggested Michele Driscoll on the Potomac Patch Facebook page.

“Encourage or enforce?” Driscoll said.

Jerry October 11, 2011 at 02:25 PM
This is simply another excuse to impose taxes, thinly disguised as a "feel good" measure to promote a clean environment. In the final analysis, it is oppressive and stupid. In fact, the plastic bags can be recycled, and they are recycled by Giant grocery stores. Further, the plastic bags are essential for enclosing store items, such as ice cream and seafood, that may leak and contaminate other items. Still further, prolonged use of the so-call reuseable bags promote the migration of germs, bacteria, and other disease vectors into their contents. We are long overdue for a general tax revolt in Montgomery County, and this bag tax may be the spark that ignites it. As a County resident since 1954, I am appalled at what this county has become, especially with respect to the liberal application of taxes to support uncontrolled urbanization.
Woodside Park Bob October 11, 2011 at 03:51 PM
From the article: “To our knowledge, we have not received any requests from either residents or retailers to repeal the law,” said Esther Bowring, a public information officer with Montgomery County. Well, it's no wonder they haven't received requests from retailers to repeal the tax. The tax is a new profit center for retailers! They get to keep 2 cents of the 5 cent tax on every bag! That's 40 percent of the tax going to retailers for collecting it -- or was the 40% provision put in the law to get retailer support for the tax? And they must not be listening very well if they haven't heard requests from the public to repeal the tax.
Carol October 12, 2011 at 01:04 PM
I think a bag tax is a wonderful prod to help people remember to bring their own bags. I know it helps me: when shopping in DC, I'm delighted to get that virtuous 5 cent credit when I do remember my bags, and am more than happy to pay the 5 cents when I forget. I'm glad to live in a progressive county that seeks to be ahead of the curve environmentally.
Sylvia Darrow October 12, 2011 at 02:46 PM
It's not just grocery bags that get taxed! IT'S ALL BAGS! Wonder how McDonald's will hand us our hamburgers?
Corbin Dallas Multipass October 12, 2011 at 03:11 PM
They will probably hand them to you w/o a 5 cent tax because restaruants are exempt. http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcgtmpl.asp?url=/content/pio/bag/faqs_residents.asp#14 "Are any bags exempt under the law? Yes. These bags are exempt from the law: A paper bag that a restaurant gives a customer to take prepared or leftover food or drink from the restaurant. The law defines restaurant as “…any lunchroom, café or other establishment located in a permanent building for the accommodation of the public, equipped with a kitchen containing facilities and utensils for preparing and serving meals to the public and outfitted with a public dining area.”
Corbin Dallas Multipass October 12, 2011 at 03:57 PM
The fact that bags can be recycled has no bearing on whether or not they end up as litter. They could be thrown away already which would prevent the litter issues, this isn't about recycling vs trash. Seafood bags are accounted for in the law: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcgtmpl.asp?url=/content/pio/bag/faqs_residents.asp#17 "What about the plastic bags used for produce, meats, etc. in the grocery store? Will they still be available and will I be charged? These bags will still be available, and you will not be charged for them." I am sure you could hijack one for your Ice Cream and the store will look the other way. Also, the FAQ addresses your food safety concerns here: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcgtmpl.asp?url=/content/pio/bag/faqs_residents.asp#21 "A study conducted on reusable bags in Tucson, Phoenix and Los Angeles, and underwritten by the American Chemistry Council, concluded that hand or machine washing bags can reduce the bacteria in bags by more than 99.9 percent and reduce cross-contamination of foods. More recently, Consumer Reports investigated the allegations about bacteria in reusable shopping bags and found that there were, in fact, very few safety concerns. No pathological bacteria such as salmonella, listeria or E coli were found in their research on shopping bags." I find your comment pretty depressing since it is filled with misdirection and wrong information that a basic web site visit can correct.
Jeannette Lemieux October 12, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Costco doesn't have any bags for you to use - and I don't see people complaining.
Wick October 12, 2011 at 04:02 PM
I agree with Carol 100%. This is about behavior modification, not taxes and profits. How many times does a clerk hand you a bag with one or two items in it? Keep track for a week and you will be astonished.
Nancy Weber October 13, 2011 at 06:00 PM
How much trouble is it to keep some tote bags in the car to carry groceries....or stash a plastic bag in the bottom of your handbag? Of course men do not usually carry handbags....but they really should. In this new age, men have almost as much junk to carry as women. Glasses, phones, wallets, other electronic gizmos, keys etc. Most men look pretty lumpy now. If they carry a messenger bag, they wouldn't need a plastic bag for small things. I hate to see plastic bags hanging in trees and shrubbery.They create a big mess and look awful. We can do this.
Sylvia Darrow October 13, 2011 at 06:58 PM
First of all, it's a tax! Pure and simple! Secondly, the bag tax will apply to all department stores, as well. I re-cylcle all of my bags. Now I will have to purchase paper bags for my paper and cans, and buy PLASTIC bags for my garbage! Why not go back to hanging our clothes outside, and using cloth baby diapers? All in the name of saving the enviornment!
Corbin Dallas Multipass October 13, 2011 at 08:57 PM
Syvlia: Yes, everyone knows it is a tax, pure and simple, and the point of the Tax is to get people to change their behaviors to save money. You also have the option of not changing your behavior and spending more money. If you reuse all your bags (think that's what you meant instead of recycle) then let me first laud you for your environmental consciousness. Unfortunately, a side effect of the bag tax is that you need to make a decision of which is cheaper - buying separate bags or paying 5cents per bag. I'm in the same boat - I use paper bags from Trader Joe's for my paper recycling. I'll have to pay 5 cents twice a month for my paper that comes in. Arguably, as a side effect, I'll probably be looking at what paper comes in to my home and see if there's ways to stop it. No paper in, less paper out, less waste overall. The environmental problem being targeted is litter specifically. People when washing their clothes don't create litter. And thankfully the population of Montgomery County hasn't gotten accustomed to dumping dirty diapers outside of trash cans and in local rivers. However, the county is listening, and if you want to voice your opinion, you should read the FAQ and follow their instructions for contacting the Department of Environmental Protection: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcgtmpl.asp?url=/content/pio/bag/faqs_residents.asp#20
Sylvia Darrow October 13, 2011 at 09:22 PM
Corbin, I respectfully disagree with you. This is not just an issue about litter! This is about forcing us to do just as you say, either pay for our bags, or pay and buy our bags. I have several nice bags to carry into the stores. They just don't hold a month's groceries! People will always find a way to trash our enviornment! Teaching Good manners and respect would be better than penalities on those of us who carefully find the nearest trash can!
bmsinmd March 06, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Y'all folks - PUH-LEEZE! - could we hyperventilate about more important things? Does everything need to escalate to an act of war? We are talking about 5 freakin' centavos, folks - FIVE CENTS! and if you get multiples, it may come to TEN or maybe even TWENTY cents. SO WHAT? Are you seriously worried about such chump change? Might we consider what the whole effort is about? Who among us has not walked a park and seen plastic bags stuck to bushes and trees by the path? What homeowner has not had to remove plastic bags from his flower bed in front? They are a blight on the country, folks. ANd a very simple solution is for us to carry our own reusable bags. How difficult is that? Are we so stupid? And when we forget, what's a few pennies to remind us for next time? Come on, folks, grow up, get serious, do the right thing. 'K?
Susan March 06, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Amen, bmsinmd.
Jim April 03, 2012 at 12:02 PM
I don't have a problem with a bag tax on plastic pags from grocery or convenience stores as that does seem to have some relationship to trying to address the environment. I do, however, have a problem wiith a bag tax that applies to all bags, including paper, that applies automatically to all retail stores, including department stores or retail chains. For example, having to shell out a tax for picking up plates at the Montgomery mall that I bought online at Crate and Barrel is ridiculous (which recently happened to me). The problem with this tax is that it is way overbroad to accomplish the supposed problem that the Council claims it is trying to address. For their stupidity (in not addressing the supposed problem) or lack of honesty (i.e., that the tax is really just about raising cash), the entire Council should be voted out of office.

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