Use of Plastic Bags Drops 80 Percent in 2010

A year after its implementation, the five cent tax on paper and plastic bags in Washington, D.C. has significantly reduced plastic bag use, according to The Washington Post. Consumer reviews of the law, however, remain mixed.

Enacted on Jan. 1, 2010, the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act directly contributed to an 80 percent decrease in plastic bags contaminating the Anacostia river and its tributaries. The Washington Post reported that 55 million plastic bags were used in 2010, a sharp decrease from the roughly 270 million bags used in the year prior to the law’s passing. Additionally, the legislation accrued two million dollars in tax revenue, which will be utilized for further conservation efforts.

Not all consumers approve of the tax, which applies to businesses selling food and alcohol, however. Chris Olarte, an employee at Wisemiller’s Deli, observed that the decline in plastic bag use went hand in hand with customers’ complaints.

“A lot of people do not like [the law] very much,” Olarte said.

The effects of the tax can also be seen on campus, where the university’s Grab-n-Go stations now offer reusable bags as an alternative to plastic.

Nicholas Fedyk (SFS ’14) utilizes the Go Green bags on a daily basis because he feels it is important to be environmentally conscious.

“It’s only five cents, but it brings awareness to the [environmental] issues,” he said

Of the five cents charged for each bag, businesses keep one cent, or two if they offer rebates for consumers who bring their own bags. The remaining revenue goes to a government fund that supports cleaning and conservation of the Anacostia River as well as a reusable bag program administered by the District Department of the Environment, according to the Green D.C. website.

The government has set itself a lofty goal — making the Anacostia watershed entirely trash-free by 2013, according to the Anacostia watershed trash reduction plan

Inspired by a December 2008 study conducted by the Anacostia Watershed Society, which found that disposable plastic bags were one of the largest sources of litter in the river, the bag law is the first of its kind in the United States, according to the website. Nearby states have recently started to follow the District’s lead. The Virginia state house will consider legislation that calls for a five cent tax on plastic bags and Maryland lawmakers are discussing implementing similar environmental laws, according to The Washington Post.

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