The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a disposable plastic bag tax of five cents per plastic bag, which will take effect July 1, according to a Wednesday news release.
The new tax will be levied on purchases made at grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies in the county, including those in the county’s incorporated cities, according to county officials. The measure aims to reduce plastic pollution in the region.
“Passing this program will provide Loudoun County with a way to reduce the environmental harm of disposable plastic bags by encouraging shoppers to reuse durable bags,” Vice President Koran Saines (D-Sterling) said. “Plastic bags pollute our precious land and water resources. People have a choice when shopping – they can avoid the tax altogether by bringing a reusable bag to the store.
The tax does not apply to restaurants, food banks, farmers’ markets or clothing stores. It also does not apply to the following:
- Durable plastic bags specially designed and manufactured for multiple reuse.
- Plastic bags which are only used to wrap, contain or wrap ice cream, meat, fish, poultry, foodstuffs, unwrapped bulk foods or perishables in order to prevent damage or contamination.
- Plastic bags used to carry dry cleaning products or prescription drugs.
- Several plastic bags sold in bundles and intended for use as garbage, animal waste or leaf removal bags.
Recent updates to the Virginia Code have given localities the ability to enact a tax to address community and environmental issues associated with disposable plastic bags, including waste, pollution, and landfill and recycling center issues, says the January 19 release.Additionally, the statement said lightweight plastic bags commonly end up in waterways as litter and remain pollutants. Unlike natural materials, plastic never completely degrades. It breaks down over time into tiny pieces called microplastics that can get into food and water and harm wildlife.
Revenue generated from the tax can only be spent on waste and pollution programs or to help low-income residents get durable, reusable shopping bags for free.
In addition to supporting the purchase of reusable bags for beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Women, Infants and Children Program, the Loudoun County program can be used to expand existing environmental programs, including :
- Improved waste reduction initiatives.
- Improved education and awareness programs on waste reduction and recycling.
- Expanded county household hazardous waste and electronics recycling programs.
County officials said they would contact local retailers to explain the scope of the tax on disposable plastic bags.