D.C. Council approves plastic bag tax

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The D.C. Council Tuesday gave initial approval to legislation creating a tax on the use of plastic bags by retailers, an environmental initiative that could make the city the first in the nation to enact such a measure but one decried by opponents as a tax on the poor.

“Wherever the fault lies, the fact of the matter is our country’s becoming inundated with plastic bags and plastic bottles,” said council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat. “This is a first step to try to address that issue.”

The Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act of 2009 bans the use of disposable non-recyclable plastic carryout bags and assesses consumers a 5 cent fee per recyclable paper and plastic carryout bag used to carry purchases at retail establishments like grocery stores, convenience stores and liquor stores.

Retailers under the proposal would be allowed to keep one cent of the fee, while the remaining four cents would be placed in a fund targeting cleanup of the Anacostia River, which officials say receives 20,000 tons of trash each year.

Stores also can offer a carryout bag credit program, which would credit customers at least five cents for each bag they provide, and be able to keep two cents per bag sold.

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