As students return to the Georgetown campus for the spring semester, they will be forced to search for an extra nickel at the cash register to accommodate a new tax on disposable bags in the District.

On Jan. 1, Washington, D.C., became the first major U.S. city to impose a fee on disposable plastic and paper bags. Customers of grocery, liquor and retail stores are required to pay 5 cents for each disposable bag they use to carry purchases.

The fee has already begun to dissuade some student consumers on Georgetown’s campus from storing their purchases in bags provided by retailers.

“When students hear about the 5-cents fee for the disposable bag, they refuse to get bags regardless of how much stuff they purchased from the store,” said Kaitlyn Frederick (NHS ’11), an employee of Vital Vittles, which, along with all other Corp services and businesses on campus such as the Georgetown University Bookstore, is subject to the new tax.

Sam Fubara (COL’ 11) finds the fee inconvenient but appreciates its potential environmental benefits.

“It’s a bit ridiculous, and I think people should start taking their bags with them to stores. However, it does serve its dissuasive purpose and could help clean up the environment,” he said.

The fee was introduced because of the rising amount of debris in the Anacostia River as a result of disposed bags.

“The District’s bag tax is not to generate revenue but to cause a change in behavior,” Jim Foster, president of the Anacostia Watershed Society, said to The Washington Post.

The legislation for the fee was introduced in the winter of 2008 in the D.C. Council. According to D.C. councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), one of the sponsors of the bill, 47 percent of the trash in the Anacostia River was from disposable bags.

“The councilmembers considered various options to address this problem and concluded the best way was through the tax,” Wells said.

The revenues from the tax will go toward remedying the environmental problem.

“One cent would be kept by the retail store while 4 cents is kept in a fund which is meant to clean up the Anacostia River,” Wells said.

As reported by The Washington Post, bag taxes in other cities have not been passed because of public opposition. As councilmember Jack Evans told The Washington Post, the council did face opposition to the fee but was able to pass the legislation easily with the backing of businesses and advocates eager to save the Anacostia River from litter.

“I think it’s a good idea and I would definitely support any action to clean up the Anacostia River,” Chris Reid (COL’ 10) said.

The fee is expected to yield an estimated $3.6 million in its first year of enactment, according to a Post article. According to Wells, the main goal of the fee is to reduce the use of less reusable bags as time goes by. Similar bag fees in countries in Europe such as Ireland and Germany have a proven success rate.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*