Loudoun supervisors pass 5-cent tax on plastic bags

This summer, Loudouners will start paying to use plastic bags at the store.

Loudoun County supervisors on Tuesday narrowly approved a 5-cent tax on single-use plastic bags in the checkout lines of grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies, taking effect July 1.

Proponents of the tax have argued that the tax is an environmental measure. Opponents argued that it might not do much for the environment, but would place a new burden on taxpayers, especially those on low incomes, at a time when many are already strapped for cash.

Retailers keep part of the tax. By state law, proceeds from the plastic bag tax must be used to clean up the environment, provide education programs designed to reduce environmental waste, mitigate pollution and litter, or provide reusable bags to beneficiaries of the supplementary nutritional assistance program or to women, infants and children. advantages. County staff members have previously said the Loudoun government will likely use the money to fund community clean-up events and special recycling events.

One business owner, Avis Renshaw, who owns both a farm and Mom’s Apple Pie, said she would like to phase out single-use bags altogether. But she pointed out to supervisors that under the new tax, not only are plastic bags cheaper for a business to buy and use – and paper bags currently unavailable due to supply chain issues – but with some of the new tax remaining with retailers, businesses will now be reimbursed for purchasing plastic bags. She urged supervisors to rethink the tax.

“To me, this is a new tax on people at a really bad time, and I just can’t support it, especially when you guys are looking at possibly raising our Loudoun County taxes, our property taxes “said the supervisor. Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge).

“It makes it very difficult for small businesses at a very bad time, and especially at a time when we have unprecedented supply chain issues,” said supervisors Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). He added: “We went straight to bat here and never tried the carrot. There are many things we could do to encourage the recycling of plastic bags, and we haven’t done any of them.

Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) pointed out that an alternative, paper bags, use more energy and cause more air and water pollution to be produced per bag compared to bags. in plastic. And she said the tax imposes new hardships on low-income families.

“Working class families who don’t have a car readily available can’t carry reusable bags in the car like most of us can, for them to use reusable bags they would have to carry those bags to work with them on any day they plan to shop,” Umstattd said.

“All the arguments I’ve heard here are, let’s keep it the way it is,” supervisor Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn) said. “That won’t be enough, because we know that keeping it as is causes real damage to our environment.”

“It’s the epitome of ‘think globally and act locally’. We don’t need to lose our collective business because Loudoun County joins who knows how many other counties in Virginia are implementing a tax, a voluntary tax, that is needed to address environmental issues,” said County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At-General).

Vice President Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling), who introduced the proposed new tax, called it a “voluntary tax” and said it would not hurt low-income families.

“If I had my way, I would vote to get rid of all plastic, but until the General Assembly gives us that authority, that’s what we have,” Saines said.

Supervisors voted 5-4 in favor of the new tax, with Umstattd, Letourneau, Buffington and Supervisor Caleb E. Kershner (R-Catoctin) opposing.

The county has set up a webpage with more information about the tax,loudoun.gov/plasticbagtax.

Bryce K. Locke