In January 2010, Washington DC imposed a 5 cent bag tax for consumers. One of the first “bag-tax” in the United States, bakeries, delicatessens, grocery stores, drugstores, convenience stores, department stores and any other “business that sells food items” must charge the 5 cent tax on paper or plastic bags; and wow, what a difference those 5 little red cents make! DC officials estimated that in 2009, over 22.5 million plastic bags were handed out each month in Washington DC alone. In January 2010, only 3 million bags were distributed, and over $150,000 in revenue was generated to help clean up the Anacostia River. In fact, since the bag tax has become a reality, DC has collected over 4 million dollars to help clean up the Anacostia Rivershed. As you can see, when people ask if plastic bag bans really help the environment, the answer is a resounding YES! In fact, when asked if you can see a marked reduction of trash along the river, Julie Lawson, communications and campaigns manager for the Anacostia Watershed Society, says, “We’re finding a lot fewer bags actually out in the environment, especially in the tributaries leading into the Anacostia River.”
I’m sure that everyone uses reusable bags when grocery shopping, and I know that everyone is conscious of recycling and reducing their plastic footprint. The Surfrider Foundation created the Rise Above Plastics campaign to move consumers away from plastic and towards sustainable packaging. In fact, “For the entire month of October the Surfrider Foundation and our friends at Rusty will be celebrating Raptober. We’ll be sharing plastic related facts, as well as tips on how to reduce your individual plastic footprint.” If you aren’t convinced that even by using one less plastic bag makes a difference, consider the success of Washington DC bag tax.