The Dernogalizer

January 10, 2010

The need for Maryland’s Plastic Bag Tax

Filed under: environment,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 3:40 pm

I had a post a few days ago about the 5 cent plastic bag tax that Delegate Al Carr is introducing for the Maryland General Assembly in the upcoming session.  The Anacostia Watershed Society has more information on their website, including a fact sheet and poster for the bag bill.  I’m re-posting some of the facts they have for plastic bags, as well as the DC plastic bag tax bill which passed last year, which the Maryland bill is modeled after.

Why a bag fee?
The purpose of the bag fee is to get trash out of our waterways. A recent study found that 33% of the trash in the Anacostia River is plastic bags.*  A District Department of the Environment (DDOE) survey found that nearly 50% of the trash in tributary streams is plastic bags; the greater amounts of vegetation tend to snag the bags upstream of the Anacostia’s main stem.**  People can avoid paying the fee by bringing reusable bags to the store, and as more people do so over time the number of plastic bags used in the District will decline dramatically. The result will be a more beautiful city for everyone to enjoy.

This is not a revenue bill!!
The District did not enact this fee to cover budget shortfalls. Of the five cent fee businesses keep one cent, or two cents if they offer a rebate when you bring a reusable bag. The remaining three or four cents will go to the newly created Anacostia River Protection Fund administered by DDOE. DDOE will use this money to provide reusable bags, clean up the river and educate the public about litter.

Honoring Commitments
The District is a partner in the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Treaty. The District and Maryland are using the Anacostia as a model for pollution reduction that can be applied throughout the wider Potomac basin.

In fact, the Anacostia has such a severe trash problem that it is considered impaired under the federal Clean Water Act. Consequently, a plan to reduce the trash called a Total Maximum Daily Load is being implemented as a “pollution diet” for the Anacostia. The bag fee is one important way the District can contribute to this pollution diet.

Free reusable bags!
Giant and Anacostia Watershed Society are partnering to hand out 250,000 free bags. The week of January 1-7 all Giant stores in the District will be packing every order in reusable bags!

DDOE and CVS/pharmacy have partnered to hand out 112,000 reusable bags at locations throughout the city. DDOE has made an impressive effort to reach out to every aspect of the community, in every corner of the District, as part of these efforts, and they will continue to do so throughout 2010. More information can be found by clicking here or here.

Recent trash survey findings*:

  • Of almost 36,000 items of trash recovered in streams, nearly 12,000 (33%) were plastic bags.
  • At a surface sample site near a shopping center, 19% of trash collected was plastic bags.
  • At storm drains, which receive water washing off roads and parking lots, 23% of the trash collected was plastic bags.
  • At the Fresh Creek trash net, installed to capture and remove trash from waterways, plastic bags were the #3 item collected at about 9% of all trash.

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