On 1st January 2010 a “bag tax” was introduced in DC ostensibly to be used to clean up the Anacostia River; what many refer to as “DC’s forgotten river” (many of you will have heard of the Potomac though!). From that day forward if you needed a store-provided bag to carry your goodies away 5-cents would be added to your bill. The law also requires that any carryout bags provided, at 5-cents, by the retailers must be made of 40% post-consumer content and plastic bags can only be made from the recyclable #2 or #4 plastic types.
Well, last month figures were released showing this bag tax netted $2 million for 2010!
Apparently that equals 55 million bags which is still a lot of plastic blowing or floating around but a big drop from the 2009 estimate of bags provided (free) by retailers in the District of 270 million bags!
The Director of the District Department of the Environment, Christophe A.G. Tulou, was quoted as saying: “In a town where we talk about trillions of dollars all the time it’s amazing the power a nickel has.” His Department is charged with spending the bag money to benefit the Anacostia River.
A report in 2008 found that plastic bags made up half of the rubbish floating around in the river. In 2010 an environmental group doing their annual river cleanup found only a third of the number of bags of the previous year.
In 2007 San Francisco became the first US city to ban plastic bags; DC was the first US city to enforce a bag tax.
So… where have all the nickels gone? DC’s Department of Environment says $228,000 was spent on community outreach programs and providing free reusable bags to residents. One cent from each 5c charged goes to the retailer or 2 cents if they offer a rebate for bringing your own bag. The remainder goes to the Anacostia River Cleanup Fund which will monitor water pollution, fund cleanup events and provide continuing public education on the affect of trash in the capital’s waterways.
City Officials originally predicted $3.5 million would be raised so we’re a little behind that figure – but perhaps that shows we are all either carrying around recyclable bags or balancing goods in our hands (been there; done that when I’ve forgotten my bag!). Apparently one Safeway store had to remove their plastic bag recycling bins after they found customers “stealing” bags from them to avoid the fee!
Any store that sells food or alcohol must charge the 5 cent fee. I did not realize “food” meant chocolates at the registers until I purchased some undies at Macy’s and they asked me if I wanted a bag and then charged me when I said yes! I recently asked a cashier at Macy’s if she had many complaints over the bag fee from people buying clothes. She told me that tourists get really upset when they are charged as they don’t “know the law” .
I have a couple of the ChicoBags in my handbag now for those “just incase moments” but for times when I know I’m going shopping I have this fabulous bag I bought in Sydney on my last trip to Australia. It’s sturdy, strong and slings over my shoulder – and any new undies and clothes get to ride home in style: