Council passes plastic bag tax

Council passes plastic bag tax
File photo

By Olivia Anderson |

City Council unanimously approved a proposed plastic bag tax during its public hearing on Saturday.

Effective Jan. 1, 2022, the 5-cent tax will be added to single-use plastic bags at grocery stores, convenience stores and drugstores.

Retailers affected by the tax will retain 2 cents for every 5 cents collected on each plastic bag for the first year of the tax. On Jan. 1, 2023, the amount will decrease to 1 cent.

“This has been a long time coming, something we’ve been talking about for a while,” Mayor Justin Wilson said.

Council’s approval comes after the Virginia General Assembly passed a state law last year allowing any county or city in the state to impose a 5-cent tax on disposable plastic bags.

The tax, however, does not apply to plastic bags intended for reuse; plastic bags solely used to wrap, contain or package items like ice cream or meat; plastic bags for dry cleaning or prescription drugs and multiple plastic bags sold in packages for garbage, pet waste or leaf removal.

Council’s approval on Saturday makes Alexandria the third jurisdiction in Northern Virginia to approve a plastic bag tax this month. Arlington County also approved a plastic bag tax on Saturday and Fairfax County approved a plastic bag tax on Sept. 14.

During public comment, several speakers expressed support for the tax, including Michael Olex, vice chair of the Environmental Policy Commission.

“[The tax] is effective as demonstrated in other communities where it’s been implemented … and it’s inexpensive because basically consumers, once they acquire the bags, they’re not spending their money if they use their reusable bags, stores need to purchase less bags so their costs can go down and cities and other entities are spending less money cleaning up pollution,” Olex said.

Staff indicated that the city estimates an annual revenue of $50,000 from the tax. According to the state law, these funds may be used for environmental cleanup; providing educational programs designed to reduce environmental waste, mitigating pollution and litter and providing reusable bags to recipients of either the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or the Women, Infants and Children Program.