Study: D.C. bag tax is working

WASHINGTON – The four-year-old tax on plastic bags in the nation’s capital is reportedly leading to some dramatic changes in consumer behavior.

For each plastic bag shoppers take home from stores, they are charged an extra 5 cents, and Steve Raabe, with the research firm OpinionWorks, says, “Just the prospect of paying a nickel is enough” to make a difference: “There has been a tremendous reduction in bag usage.”

Raabe’s company conducted a study for the D.C. Department of Environment that shows the small fee has evidently made large waves. “We have 4 out of 5 D.C. residents saying that they are using fewer bags today than before the law,” Raabe says.

There has been an estimated 60 percent drop in bags going to households, the study shows; business owners and managers say they are now providing 50 percent fewer bags to customers.

Additionally, according to the study, 67 percent of residents and 68 percent of business owners and managers report seeing fewer plastic bags as litter. “It’s amazing, the motivational impact of 5 cents,” Raabe says.

Lawmakers around the region are hoping for similar results. Montgomery County has a similar tax in place. A new law in Prince George’s County that went into effect Jan. 1 prohibits the use of plastic bags for yard waste.

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