Arlington, Alexandria join Fairfax Co. in passing 5-cent tax on disposable bags

Shoppers in three areas of Northern Virginia will soon have to pay for plastic bags at the checkout.

The Arlington County Board on Saturday unanimously approved a 5-cent local tax on the use of disposable bags provided by grocery, convenience and drugstores.

Later Saturday, the Alexandria City Council also passed the ordinance.

The taxes will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

Neighboring Fairfax County adopted a 5-cent tax on disposable plastic shopping bags during a public hearing on Tuesday. It will also go into effect Jan. 1.

“Arlington County, the City of Alexandria, and Fairfax County are simultaneously taking steps to reduce the negative environmental impacts of single-use plastic bags by adopting local plastic bag tax ordinances in each jurisdiction,” the Arlington County government said in a statement.

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said in the statement, “A decrease in plastic carryout bags will lessen our environmental impact and improve quality of life for our Eco-City by reducing the plastic bags littering our roads and local waterways.”

“Arlington is proud to take this step to reduce plastic bag waste in our community and to do so with our regional partners,” said Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti.

In the same statement, Fairfax County Board Chair Jeff McKay emphasized the importance of the three jurisdictions working together.

“Environmental issues like pollution and water quality don’t respect political or geographic boundaries, they are shared concerns that affect all of us equally,” McKay said. He added, “I hope not a single person will need to pay this tax as it is completely avoidable.”

The proposed tax, which was authorized by the Virginia State Assembly last year, is a part of state and nationwide initiatives to reduce litter and fund environmental programs.

Retailers would be compensated for the cost of collecting and remitting this tax under both the Arlington County and Alexandra ordinances.

Stores will be able to keep two cents out of every five cents collected on each disposable plastic bag in the first year. After the first year, the amount will decrease to one cent.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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