- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2009

Charging shoppers 5 cents for each plastic and paper shopping bag they get at the store would help pay for clearing trash from the Anacostia River, according to a proposal Thursday by D.C. Council member Tommy Wells.

Mr. Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, was joined along the river in announcing the plan by other council members and representatives from Maryland and environmental groups. He said the fee would be charged at grocery stores, convenience stores and food vendors, among other places.

From a boat ramp near piles of washed up plastic bottles, chip bags and a spare tire, Mr. Wells said the legislation would help cut down on the amount of trash removed from the river each year, which he said was about 477 tons.

Council member Kwame R. Brown, at-large Democrat, said approving the legislation would be a “fabulous step forward.”

“If you look and drive past, you see the trash; if you come down here with your kids, you see the trash,” Mr. Brown said of the river, which runs through the District and Maryland. “By attacking the plastic bag issue, we’re going to make an effort to lift up the community.”

The bill, called the Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act of 2009, aims to raise money for cleaning and restoring the river, and curbing the use of shopping bags.

According to a report from the D.C. Department of the Environment, the bags contribute to 85 percent of the waste in the Anacostia. The report stated a bag fee could lead to a 68 percent decrease in the trash.

Under the legislation, 1 to 2 cents of the fee would go to the businesses, the rest toward a river cleanup and protection fund and providing reusable bags to elderly and low-income people.

Maryland Delegate Alfred C. Carr Jr., Montgomery County Democrat, said the state will introduce similar legislation, called the Chesapeake Bay Consumer Choice Act of 2009. He said such measures are necessary to “attack this problem as a region.”

Other U.S. cities already have taken similar steps to curb or end plastic and paper bag use. Last year, San Francisco banned plastic bags from supermarkets and chain drug stores. Seattle lawmakers have proposed a 20-cent bag fee and the issue could go before voters in August.

Home furnishings retailer Ikea stopped offering plastic and paper shopping bags in October 2008. However, such a measure failed two years ago in Annapolis.

Mr. Wells plans to introduce the bill to the council Tuesday.

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