Plastic Bag Ban Might Be On The Horizon


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A County Council Committee will review Montgomery's bag tax law more than a year after it began and discuss the possibility of banning plastic bags when it meets Thursday afternoon. The Council's Transportation & Environment Committee, chaired by Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac), will discuss whether Montgomery should consider changes to the bag tax that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012. In 2012, the county collected $2.3 million from the bag tax with more than 57.6 million bags taxed the 5-cent fee. By December 2012, 1,011 retailers had registered to collect the tax. Retailers keep one cent of the tax for administrative expenses. The tax's intended purpose was to cut down plastic bag pollution by encouraging shoppers to use re-useable bags at supermarkets and stores. The tax also includes paper bags. The revenues go to the county's Water Quality Protection Charge fund. Just the $2.1 million revenue from the tax through Dec. 1, 2012 was double what the county projected. Environmentalists said anecdotal evidence pointed to reduced plastic bag pollution in watersheds. It appears the tax did not slow the rate with which shoppers used plastic bags throughout the year. In the first seven months of 2012, between January and the end of July, customers paid $1.25 million in taxes for 31.3 million bags. The final totals are almost double that. Starting at 2 p.m., the Committee will discuss the possible exclusion of the tax at clothing stores and other non-grocery stores, a change Berliner first brought up last fall. The bigger change would be a plastic bag ban, potentially mimicking legislation in San Francisco and keeping in step with a number of similar proposed measures around the country. Flickr photo by Mr. T in DC

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