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Plastic bag tax advertised on the fairfaxcounty.gov website

Plastic bag tax advertised on the fairfaxcounty.gov website

New Grocery Bag Tax Rolling Out Across Virginia

February 15, 2022

Last year the Virginia General Assembly passed a bill that effectively required all shoppers to pay 5 cents per plastic bag utilized during checkout. That bill went into effect at the beginning of the 2022 new year for counties including Fairfax, Arlington, and the neighboring Loudoun County. Other cities and municipalities are slowly opting into the program on their own.

Fairfax County cited the need to “curb our collective use of disposable plastic bags, to reduce the amount of plastic waste in our local waterways, roadways and open spaces” on their website as the reason for the bag tax.

The tax doesn’t only apply to the obvious grocery stores, but also drugstores and convenience stores. The Department of Taxation notes that retailers will not charge a tax for plastic bags including the following:

  • Durable plastic bags, with handles, that are specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse and that are at least 4 mils thick
  • Plastic bags that are solely used to wrap, contain, or package ice cream, meat, fish, poultry, produce, unwrapped bulk food items, or perishable food items in order to avoid damage or contamination 
  • Plastic bags used to carry dry cleaning or prescription drugs 
  • Multiple plastic bags sold in packages and intended for use as garbage, pet waste, or leaf removal bags. 

The Virginia Department of Taxation will collect the tax and then disperse the total funds throughout the state monthly. In Fairfax County, all revenue accumulated from the bag tax will be invested in environmental cleanup programs, pollution and litter  programs, and programs dedicated to educating people on environmental waste reduction, among others. 

The legislation requires retailers to collect the tax upon purchase. Retailers affected by the change are able to retain a two-cent discount per bag as they get used to charging customers for their bags but this discount will decrease to 1-cent at the beginning of 2023.

New taxes are usually looked down upon by those paying them but the bag tax has gotten some positive feedback so far. Fairfax County resident Grace James told the Sentinel that she was already used to bringing bags with her when buying groceries at ALDI or Lidl, so now she will “just remember to bring bags to all the stores I go to.” 

The neighboring Loudoun County, plans to start collecting the bag tax on July 1st of this year. This all in an effort to raise awareness about the tax and help businesses incorporate it into their checkout before implementation this Summer. Just north in Arlington County, “NOVAPlasticSolution.org” released a poster for stores to hang in order to spread awareness about the new bag tax being introduced. It reads “Be the solution to plastic pollution… switch to reusable bags”.

As the tax is rolled out Virginians should expect to pay more on trips to the grocery store. Hopefully into the future, the bag tax will be a step forward to a cleaner Virginia.

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