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City Council approves new plastic bag tax for local grocery and convenience stores

This weekend, the Alexandria City Council unanimously approved a new five-cent tax on plastic bags — though with some grumbling that Arlington had beat them to the punch by a few hours.

The tax will only be applied to grocery stores and convenience stores, not restaurants or other businesses, and is similar to taxes implemented in D.C. and other localities across the country. Groups collecting trash around the area reported a three-quarter decrease in the amount of plastic bags being picked up and overall decreased plastic bag use — though some of those results have been brought into question.

There were two public speakers at the meeting, both of whom endorsed the tax.

“The bag tax is an effective and inexpensive way of reducing plastic pollution,” said Michael Olex, vice-chair of the Environmental Policy Commission. “It’s effective, as demonstrated in other communities such as D.C. It’s inexpensive because consumers, once they acquire bags, aren’t spending any money. Stores purchase less bags, so their costs can go down. Cities and other entities are spending less money cleaning up pollution. I urge the council to adopt this measure both for citizens of Alexandria and the environment.”

Public speaker Al Clark said the bag tax proposal should be an easy choice, particularly in the face of other harder environmental choices the city will face down the line.

“Obviously this has been a long-time coming, something we’ve been talking about for a while,” Wilson said. “Going back… Tim Lovain was advocating for this for years, long before it was really popular, and [we] looked at him kind of funny when he did but he was certainly right on this. Unfortunately we are the third to adopt it in the region by a matter of hours (beat by Arlington and Fairfax).”

Arlington adopted a similar tax a few hours earlier, and Fairfax bagged the approval a week earlier.

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