Loudoun Supervisors to Consider 5-cent Plastic Bag Tax

County supervisors have started wheels turning to impose a five-cent tax on disposable plastic bags in Loudoun.

Supervisors on Tuesday, Sept. 15 directed county staff members to bring information on the possible new tax the county’s finance committee with a 5-4 vote. The General Assembly this year passed a new law allowing localities to impose the tax, at five cents per single-use plastic bag. The new law requires that retailers get a portion of the proceeds, and the rest go toward environmental cleanup, education programs to reduce environmental waste, mitigating pollution and litter, or providing reusable bags to recipients of benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Women, Infants, and Children Program. Under existing local tax law, some money collected in towns would go to those towns.

Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) led the push, and not for the first time.

However some supervisors were skeptical, including because grocery stores have limited the use of reusable bags during the pandemic. Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) worried the extra tax could add up and make a difference for lower-income people in the country.

“The remedy to fix behavior is not always a tax,” Letourneau said. “And I just don’t support adding something, especially at this particular time, when there is a lot of uncertainty out there. People aren’t sure of the right thing to do at the grocery store.”

“I don’t believe we have the luxury to act like what’s happening in our environment and our climate is not an issue,” said Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large).

County staff members previously estimated the tax could bring in $780,000 a year, with the county and towns keeping $470,000 a year until 2023. At that point, the portion that goes to the retail would drops from 2 cents to 1 cent, leaving the government $620,000.

Disposable plastic bags are a significant source of litter and pollution, as well as posing a significant danger to wildlife. The Environmental Protection Agency reported that in 2017, the U.S. produced about 4.14 million tons of plastic bags, of which only 390,000 tons was recycled. Plastic is not generally biodegradable.

However reusable bags are more energy- and resource-intensive to manufacture and transport, meaning shoppers must commit to use them many times before they break even on environmental impact. A widely-reported 2018 Danish study found a range of results, from 35 uses for a polyester bag to 20,000 uses for an organic cotton bag; however that study did not take into account the impacts of plastic litter.

A report is expected in the county finance committee as part of supervisors’ annual budget work.

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15 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors to Consider 5-cent Plastic Bag Tax

  • 2020-09-17 at 12:42 pm
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    Aside from this being just another Democrat tax increase it’s also dangerous. Reusable never washed bags that had meat and other perishable items placed on the grocery store belt seems like a bad idea, especially in the middle of a global pandemic.

    • 2020-09-17 at 10:56 pm
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      How about a tax on just Democrats, since there isn’t 1 elected Democrat who hasn’t tried to raise or increase taxes??? Think about it, local or state or national this is what Democrats do. They tax the middle class, try to make the poor dependent on government and enrich their friends. FACT!…name me just 1 Democrat who didn’t want to increase or start a new tax???

  • 2020-09-17 at 1:49 pm
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    If you give government a new opportunity to tax you, they will.

    Yeah, add a tax on basic food during a financial apocalypse. That will really help people.

  • 2020-09-17 at 1:54 pm
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    P.S. The County now raises $400,000,000/year taxing data centers. That is money the County did not have at all 10 years ago. The BoS SPENDS EVERY DIME of that $400M of that extra money, and now they have to STEAL A NICKEL from you when you buy groceries.

    Worst. Board. Ever.

  • 2020-09-17 at 3:54 pm
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    The left is here and they are coming for your rights. Sadly we have several more years of this despotic control over ever aspect of our lives. Raising taxes, banning legal guns, trying to take control of the police, shutting down businesses, closing schools…

  • 2020-09-17 at 4:33 pm
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    so when the first Loudoun citizen dies because of covid spread from a contaminated bag then the Board of supervisors should be sued for negligence and dereliction of duty and possibly depraved indifference because of this boneheaded policy. This board always wants to pass more laws to punish the citizens of Loudoun. When was the last time they actually the repealed any laws?

  • 2020-09-17 at 5:49 pm
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    Hearing Phyllis Randall and Koran Saines worry about the environment is simply more of their hypocrisy! Throughout their crusade to encourage/enforce use of masks and gloves, they have resolutely refused to address the issue of improperly discarded medically contaminated material littering parking lots and neighborhoods. Multiple contacts about this issue has resulted in a ZERO response. No effort has been made to educate the public, no receptacles provided and no penalties considered. Let’s clean up the current problem first.

  • 2020-09-17 at 5:59 pm
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    Fairly well-balanced story. I oppose the tax. Will customers use fewer plastic bags? If so, would that reduce the projected revenue?
    Plastic bags just aren’t clean enough to reuse, except to collect garbage in a small trash can. They are handy. Without plastic bags those trash cans would be less sanitary, requiring more washing (water, pollution).
    I think the cons outweigh the pros in Loudoun, unless we lived on the ocean, which we don’t.
    How about spending less?

  • 2020-09-17 at 6:24 pm
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    we are in a Pandemic and many people are struggling the last thing we need is another tax. The best way to keep the economy growing is to lower taxes not raise them,

  • 2020-09-17 at 9:53 pm
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    Money grab. Trying to offset the potential cost of the proposed “Loudoun Police”

  • 2020-09-17 at 11:04 pm
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    Riiight! Raise taxes after putting so many people out of work, and bankrupting so many businesses. Don’t establish sensible criteria for ending the endless lockdown nightmare. There’s no sensible reason for the insanity. No overwhelming of hospitals. No deaths for a month and a half. Instead of making our lives better, they find ways to harass us and institute new taxes. They’ll raise taxes and spending until we get rid of them. This nightmare is what happens when people vote for DEMs.

  • 2020-09-18 at 10:23 am
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    I am used to paying for my plastic bags. When I lived in Germany, the store charged DM1 for a bag. When I lived in Russia, it was ₽1 for a bag. Of course, these were sturdier bags than what we find at Giant, Wegmans and Harris-Teeter. I most often used a bag on multiple trips to the markets and used fabric bags as well. Of course, right now, several stores don’t want to touch your reusable bags.

    There ain’t no such thing as a free bag. If you think bags are “free” then you are overlooking the fact that the cost of those bags is factored into the prices on all the products you purchase. (Those “free cookies” at H-T are also not free.)

    If plastic bags are that harmful, and they might be, then ban them. Phase them out. Go back to paper bags. It’s just like smoking though. Politicians don’t want to ban tobacco regardless of how harmful it is. They want to tax it at every increasing rates. It’s not about the environment or health. It is about incompetent government’s inability to control its own spending and the unending growth of the nanny state.

  • 2020-09-18 at 12:07 pm
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    I use reusable bags at the grocery store and have done so since the mid 1990s. Back then, for me, it was an awareness of the waste/environmental disaster that disposable plastic bags are but also a more practical/fruagal matter because the grocery store I shopped at (Giant) gave a 3c refund for each reusable bag the customer brought in. I still have and use those same bags 25 years later. The rebate program ended a few years back so now I get no discount for using my own bags, technically I’m paying more for my groceries so I can subsidize another shoppers “free” plastic bags.

    Regarding the concerns about cleanliness/COVID fears, practically everything you buy at the grocery store comes encased in plastic. Adding another layer of plastic does nothing to protect the food or you from illness. Wash your hands after going to the grocery store and you can wash your bags just like you launder your clothing, COVID face mask etc.

    I agree that the burden of a bag tax/fine/fee is a potential concern for lower income people but the good news is there is a simple way to avoid this by using one’s own bag. Most people just enjoy the convenience of stores handing out “free” unlimited plastic bags and don’t want to bother with remembering their own bags etc. The tax/fine/fee seems necessary to motivate the behavior change and break this wasteful habit (and it does as evidenced by the decrease in plastic bag use in jurisdictions that have adopted this).

    I don”t believe we should use COVID or the economy or a general hatred of all things related to taxation as an excuse to keep piling up plastic bags in the world.

  • 2020-09-21 at 1:52 pm
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    How about filing a charter document with Richmond so Loudoun can collect cigarette taxes? How about stop waiving the taxes due from Howard Hughes Institute which is worth about 7 times as much as the plastic bag remedial tax? How about asking LCPS how much of the $1.4 billion they don’t need to spend due to online courses so they don’t “find” a way to spend it anyway? How about properly taxing the Greenway for another $5 or so million? How about producing a list of priorities so those you represent can appreciate what you are working on or not working on other than statues, hundred year old signage and McCarthy era trolling for segregationists when you should know the vast majority of Loudoun residents moved in during the last 20 years and obviously were not here during the Civil War! 🙂

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