Richmond – Americans use more than 100 billion plastic and paper bags every year, but we recycle less than 5 percent of those bags. Many of these bags end up in landfills, and even worse millions end up floating around our waterways clogging the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers, lakes and streams that feed into it. This morning, a three member subcommittee of the House of Delegates voted against a bill that would have taken steps to reduce waste from these bags in the Commonwealth.
“Delegate Ebbin’s bill would have been a significant step in reducing the waste that enters Virginia’s rivers, lakes and streams,” said Environment Virginia Advocate J.R. Tolbert. “Virginia needs to address issues of waste and pollution entering our waterways and today’s vote is a setback in that effort.”
The bill would have levied a 5 cent tax on each plastic bag used at grocery and convenience stores, as well as pharmacies. These types of taxes have been successful in reducing bag use in other parts of the world, and even from retail giants like the furniture megastore IKEA.
In March 2007, the furniture retailer started charging costumers 5 cents per bag for plastic bags. The alternative for consumers was to bring their own bags or buy $0.59 reusable ones at the store. After one year, the company reported that plastic bag consumption dropped 92 percent, meaning roughly 64 million bags were used.
At the root of the bill was an effort to help fund Chesapeake Bay restoration. The legislation would have generated revenue for the Virginia Water Quality Improvement Fund which is projected to have a budget shortfall of $37.6 million by budget year 2011. In year one, the bill was projected to receive $47.9 million for the fund.
“The biggest loser today is the Chesapeake Bay. This bill would have helped fund efforts to curtail point source pollution entering the bay, and by rejecting the measure the House of Delegates has served up yet another threat to one of Virginia’s greatest resources,” concluded Tolbert.
Environment Virginia is a statewide, citizen-based, advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water, and open space.