- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2014

D.C. residents are using fewer disposable bags, and seeing them littering their neighborhoods less frequently since the 5 cent bag tax went into effect in 2010, according to a survey released Tuesday.

Respondents estimated they brought home an average of 10 disposable bags per week before the law took effect compared to four bags per week during the week they were interviewed.

The survey, which has a margin of error of 4 percent, was conducted by the Maryland-based firm Opinion Works on behalf of the Alice Ferguson Foundation and the District Department of the Environment. Six hundred D.C. residents and 177 D.C. businesses were interviewed by phone last year.

Among other findings, the survey also said D.C. residents acquire the most disposable bags from grocery stores compared to convenience, liquor and department stores. Residents are also increasingly making a habit of carrying reusable bags. A quarter of residents said they always carry a reusable bag and another 34 percent said they carry a reusable bag “most of the time.”

Money collected from the bag tax is meant to help Anacostia River clean-up efforts, but revenue has been lower than expected. City officials initially estimated $3.5 million in first-year collections. The actual amount was closer to $2 million. In fiscal 2013, the city collected about $2.1 million, according to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

But the efforts seem to be reducing litter — or at least residents’ perception of it. About 67 percent of the surveyed residents said they see fewer plastic bags littering their neighborhoods than three years ago.