Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Power of a Nickel - DC's Bag Tax

ReUse those plastic bags you
do have.  Here, an IKEA bag
dispenser is attached to a
light post w/ long zipties. 
"Biodegradable" dog poop bags
don't decompose in landfills
and they're expensive!
WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show had a segment on DC's 5cent bag tax on Monday, March 28, 2011.  DC Councilmember Tommy Wells sponsored the 5 cent bag tax that's levied on paper and plastic bags taken by a consumer at check-out. While initial estimates indicated that DC would generate some $4Million annually in revenue from the bag tax that would go to Anacostia Clean-up, the actual amount has been much lower as people have changed their behavior and reduced their use of plastic bags.  The impact of the bag tax was immediate. In December 2009 before the tax was levied, DC Residents were using some 22.5 million bags per month.  In January 2010, with the tax in place, only some 3 million bags were used. Tax revenue from the bag tax has been averaging about $200,000 per month.

A report on the website notes that in DC, there was a drop in bag use from 270 million bags in 2009 to 55 million in 2010 resulting in an 80% reduction in bag use translating to less trash and litter.  In 2010, The Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF), a non-profit that focuses on the Potomac River watershed, commissioned a survey of 600 D.C. residents and 51 business owners and found that since the fee was enacted, 75% of customers are using fewer bags while 78% of business owners are experiencing either zero or positive effect on their business. Other positive results included less noticeable litter around stores and costs savings from not having to purchase as many bags. Meanwhile, a Washington Examiner article in an interview with AFF staff noting that during their annual Potomac River Clean-Up last April, AFF picked up some 21,600 plastic bags a 50% reduction from 2009. Sweet!

AFF's next Potomac River Clean-Up is on Saturday, April 9, 2011 at a wide variety of locations!  Check it out!  It's really a lot of fun!

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