Democrats, Environment, News

BOS Plastic Bag Tax is Neither Creative Nor Effective

There’s a dirty little secret about single-use plastic bags: The flimsy plastic is tough to recycle. It gets tangled up in the recycling machinery.

The thin plastic bags often aren’t durable enough to use more than once, either. And research has also shown that consumers typically don’t even reuse the more durable bags that are designed to be used again.

So, what good is Loudoun County’s 5-cent tax on single-use plastic bags?

If the tax is truly funneled into programs that clean up litter, that’s a point in its favor. But it still won’t keep the bulk of those bags out of the landfill.

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has at best mandated a tax that has little impact on the environment and could even be making things worse. In California, for example, which had banned single-use plastic bags, consumers threw away heavier, reusable plastic bags, creating a weightier environmental problem.

Instead of penalizing Loudoun County citizens with a plastic bag tax, why not encourage retailers to promote recyclable paper bags?

Currently, Virginia provides a tax credit to businesses that purchase recycling equipment. But most plastic bags don’t even make it to the recycler.

The state should extend a tax incentive to retailers to stop offering single-use plastic bags and to encourage the use of recyclable paper bags. Included in that program would be receptacles for collecting paper bags for the recycler. The receptacles could be stationed at the store entrance.

Retailers could find a way to reward customers who recycle with extra points in their loyalty club. Durable, recyclable and reusable shopping bags promoting the store name and sustainability could earn extra loyalty points at checkout or discounts on various products, like organic produce.

Our Loudoun County Board of Supervisors – and the state of Virginia – should find a more creative solution to the plastic pollution problem.  A plastic bag tax is neither creative, nor very effective.

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