Data Shows Mixed Results for Montgomery County Disposable Bag Tax

A Washington Post article (2016-07-04) reported that Montgomery County’s 5-cent disposable bag tax has produced mixed results – with revenue from plastic bag sales growing 3.2 percent from FY 2014 to 2015 but the number of plastic bags found in local waters decreasing. The article indicated that the County imposed its bag tax in 2012 with the purpose of changing consumer behavior and reducing the amount of plastic bags that end up in local waterways such as the Anacostia River. From the article:

County Council member Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda), the chairman of the transportation and environment committee, said he finds it “troubling that we haven’t seen more of a decrease in the sales of bags, especially at grocery stores.” …

Convenience stores, pharmacies and department stores in Montgomery County had reductions in bag sales, however. And traps at 15 stream sites in the county monitored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments show a decline in the number of plastic bags collected, from 856 in 2011 to 777 in 2015. The figure from the first half of 2016 shows an even steeper drop, to 281.

“I take that as a very positive message,” said county environmental protection director Lisa Feldt.

The article also noted that the County has recently launched a new outreach effort designed to increase the use of resusable bags where appropriate:

To spur more participation, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) recently announced a renewed advertising and outreach effort, including a poster campaign (“Bring Your Bag”), bus and digital ads, and free bag distribution at county libraries.

“It’s not something a lot of people will do naturally,” Leggett said of the transition to reusable bags. “The public needs to be reminded.”

Useful Links

Montgomery County Report on Bag Tax (from Washington Post)