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20-cent bag fee proposed in Virginia

Thursday - 1/19/2012, 9:10am  ET

grocery shopping (AP)
The aim of the bag law would be reduce the amount of litter that ends up in area waterways. (AP)

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

SPRINGFIELD, Va. - The latest bag fee proposal is sparking intense debate in Virginia after lawmakers proposed a 20-cent tax on plastic.

The bill, co-sponsored by Delegates Joe Morrissey, D-Va., and Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, would impose a 20-cent fee on all plastic bags used by grocery shoppers to carry purchased goods. It doesn't affect durable, reusable bags, or bags used for ice cream, meat, fish or poultry.

Surovell says the bill is not meant to raise money, but to cut down on litter and pollution. He adds that it will likely be cut down to 5 cents once a review begins in committee.

"You could avoid the fee simply by bringing your own bag," Surovell says.

He also says that his constituents are more accepting of the 5-cent fee.

"Responses on my blog ran about 64 percent of the people were perfectly fine with a nickel," he says.

Surovell's district borders the Potomac River, a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. He says improperly discarded plastic bags are a major source of pollution and any fees collected would be used to clean up the litter.

The proposal is similar to laws already in effect in D.C. and Montgomery County, Md.

Republicans immediately lashed out regarding the proposal, saying many people already reuse plastic bags around the house.

Three similar bills died in House committees last year.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)