Howard County Council Passes Plastic Bag Fee

Howard County Council has passed legislation to impose a 5-cent fee on each disposable bag provided by retailers. The move comes on the heels of Baltimore City, where the City Council approved an outright ban on plastic bags in November. 

A full ban on disposable plastic bags was debated after the introduction of an amendment, but in a split 2-3 vote the County Council voted it down in favor of maintaining just a fee. The majority on the Council believe that a full ban is not the best option currently available. Councilmembers support the fee instead for various reasons, including the belief that it will be more effective at changing consumer habits; will produce new revenue for cleanup and education; and still allow for consumer choice.

From coverage in the Baltimore Sun:

The revenue from the bag tax would be used to establish a program that will provide reusable bags to vulnerable individuals in the county; make grants to entities engaged in water quality and water pollution education; support environmental education programs, including stream cleanups and anti-littering education; and create activities to educate the public about the benefits and methods of reducing the use of disposable plastics.

One successful amendment to the bill changed the fee structure, allowing retailers to keep 20% of fees levied as opposed to the original proposal of 10%. Another pushes the start date back to October 2020 to allow the Council to see whether the General Assembly will pass statewide legislation. This ensures that retailers will only have to learn one system of fee collection and reporting.

The article noted that County Executive Calvin Ball has said he will sign the bill into law.