October 5, 2021

Virginia’s Plastic Bag Tax Arrives a Decade After DC’s. Here’s Why.

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax County in Virginia have voted to adopt a 5-cent plastic bag tax for grocery, convenience, and drug stores under a 2020 state law that allows local governments to pass such a tax. The collected tax revenue will be used for environmental cleanup, environmental educational programs, mitigating pollution and providing reusable bags to recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC).

Rachel Karasik, a policy associate in the Nicholas Institute's Ecosystem Services Program, told The Wash that these kinds of plastic bag taxes can pose a barrier for some low-income residents, while having a minimal impact on the behavior of higher income residents.

“I do think that plastic bags are pretty low-hanging fruit,” said Karasik, who helps update and maintain the Plastic Policy Inventory, a searchable online database of plastic policy documents. “We have alternatives—they’re very, very clear. For the majority of civilized life on earth, people have been using reusable bags and reusable packaging.”