The Listno. 256

Virginia’s proposed bag tax: EXPLAINED

Photo: Associated Press


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Next week, Virginia House of Delegates member Joseph Morrissey will introduce a proposal to tax plastic bag use in the state. Unlike previous bills that have come through the House, Morrissey’s carries a relatively hefty 20 cent fee for each bag used. The List spoke to Morrissey about his passion for reducing bag use and what he hopes to achieve with his legislation.

  1. Why a bag tax?

    Morrissey says it’s not about raising revenue, but about changing people’s attitudes and reducing bag trash. “Two billion—that’s with a ‘b’—end up in rivers, landfills, and crops,” Morrissey says. He takes a moment to describe the detrimental effects of a plastic bag that gets into a cotton bale. “The whole bale could be ruined.”

  2. Did he look to D.C.’s bag tax in developing the legislation?

    The “genesis” for Morrissey’s bag-reduction passion came not from the District, but from Ireland. After a stint living in Ireland and seeing the success of its 20 pence bag tax, Morrissey was convinced that Virginians could also change their habits. He “can’t remember” if D.C.’s 5 cent tax was among the 30 policies he researched for the bill.

  3. Why 20 cents?

    Morrissey took his inspiration again from the Irish. “Twenty pence, 20 cents,” he says. “It wasn’t any more far-reaching than that.”

  4. Would the proposed tax apply to retail stores?

    “It’s just convenience stores and grocery stores at this juncture,” Morrissey says. The tax wouldn’t apply to anything that had “a handle on a thicker plastic bag, like at Macy’s.”

  5. Who’s for it?

    According to Morrissey, his constituents “love” his proposal. “I have heard nothing negative, only positive,” he says. Other delegates have stated their support for bag taxes, including Del. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, who is proposing his own nickel tax on plastic and paper bags for the third year in a row.

  6. Who’s opposed?

    Morrissey and Ebbin both say they have come up against opposition from the Virginia Retails Merchants Association.

  7. When will the vote be?

    Morrissey thinks the bill will come to a vote in late January.


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  1. Fatimaslight Fatimaslight

    Fatima Collins

    Jan 05, 2011 - 02:41:42 PM

    I agree with Chris - I carry bags in my car and use them when I can but grocery stores are not very friendly and not set up for people to have their own bags. And going through the self-checkout is even more of a nightmare. You can't put the bags you bring in the area for bagging because the weight scale gets all messed up and there is very little room to put the purchases anyway. If VA wants to have a bag tax then they first need to work with the stores to create a bag friendly environment. DC still has that problem and I always get pissed off when I have to try to bag things after I have checked them out and paid for them because the bagging area can't accomodate personal bags.

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  2. CAR57 CAR57

    Chris Raymond

    Jan 05, 2011 - 01:37:07 PM

    My issue is the need for all the grocery stores etc to RETRAIN their checkout folks to not put a single item in per's ridiculous how many bags I end up with, which I do recycle/reuse. My experience with using your own bags is that the cashiers simply don't know how to change their routines to put stuff in your bags, and I usually have 3 or 4 different sized bags to fit my groceries in. When you start talking a large grocery store during peak times, it really isn't very easy to use your own bags and not hold everything up. The system is simply hard-wired to use the plastic bags dispenser situated right beside the cashier, NOT for everyone to hand over their bags.

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  3. jane33w jane33w

    Jane33 Wllww

    Jan 10, 2011 - 01:00:35 PM

    Do it. Even the 5-cent bag fee in DC has made a huge difference. 20-cents is even better.

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