Bag Fees

One of the major focuses on policy in recent years has been a five cent fee on disposable bags. A small fee on single-use bags in stores creates an incentive for consumers to bring their own reusable bags to the store causing a decrease in the use of single use bags in that jurisdiction. These bags make up a large percentage of the trash that pollutes our watershed and by reducing them at their source, we are reducing the abundance found in our watershed.

In January 2009, the District of Columbia became the first city in the nation to implement a fee on single-use disposable plastic and paper bags. The legislation, the Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act of 2009, requires stores that sell food to charge 5¢ for each plastic or paper bag distributed at the point of purchase.

Proof of Success: Since enacting the bill, DC has seen an estimated 50% reduction in the use of disposable carry out bags. In a poll we conducted in 2010, 78% of businesses reported either positive or no impact to their business and 75% of DC residents reported using fewer single-use plastic bags. For more results on from our single-use plastic bags see the report.

Montgomery County also passed bag fee legislation that took effect on January 1, 2012. Similar to the District’s bag fee, this bill institutes a five-cent charge on paper or plastic carryout bags. Profits from this fee will go to the County’s Water Quality Protection Charge (WQPC) fund.

For the past couple of years, we have been working with the Trash Free Maryland Alliance on a statewide bag fee and legislation that would allow Prince George’s County to pass five cent bag fee.  While neither piece of legislation passed in 2012, we will continue to collaborate with The Trash Free Maryland Alliance members on solutions for plastic bag solutions.