The city of Fredericksburg voted at its September 28 city council meeting to implement a tax on disposable plastic bags provided to customers shopping at local businesses in the city, which could have a financial impact on the students and businesses of the university. The tax will go into effect on January 1, 2022, and the money raised through this tax will go to environmental efforts and programs.
According to Government Information Officer Sonja Cantu, “the proposed ordinance would impose a tax of five cents for each disposable plastic bag provided at the point of purchase to retail customers in grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores.” .
“A portion of the tax will be retained by the retailer as compensation for the costs it incurs in collecting and remitting the tax,” she said. “Retailers will be allowed to keep two cents per bag until January 1, 2023, after which they will keep one cent per bag. Revenues collected by the city are to be used for environmental programs such as pollution and waste mitigation, educational opportunities designed to reduce environmental waste, and the provision of reusable bags to beneficiaries of the nutrition assistance program. supplement (SNAP) or program for women, infants and children (WIC) benefits. “
Additionally, Cantu also notes that the tax would apply to “large big box retailers if those stores include a grocery store, convenience store, or pharmacy.” Entities that are not established in a fixed location, such as the farmer’s market, would be exempt from the tax.
The proposal would also provide exemptions for certain types of plastic bags, in particular those which are “specifically designed for multiple reuse and which are at least four mils thick” and “only used for wrapping or wrapping ice cream, meat, fish, poultry, produce, unpackaged bulk food or other perishable food to avoid damage or contamination, ”Cantu said.
According to Cantu, plastic bags used to transport dry cleaning products or prescription drugs, as well as those “sold in packaging and intended for use as trash, animal waste or leaf bags” would also be exempt. under the bill.
Initiative to tax the use of plastic bags in the city follows the 2020 Virginia General Assembly legislation which gives localities in the state the possibility of implementing such a policy.
According to At-Large City Council member Kerry Devine, reviewing the proposal is one of many steps the local government has taken to make Fredericksburg a “more sustainable city.”
“It’s a tax that would be better not to collect – the ultimate goal is to make reusable bags, or no bags for small purchases, a habit,” she said. “These bags end up in landfills or in streams and riparian areas. They get stuck in trees and brush and can harm fish and wildlife. Living near the Rappahannock River, one can see firsthand the damage plastic bags can cause. The City of Fredericksburg has worked hard to put in place the river easement, which is one more step in protecting this resource.
If implemented successfully, the tax will certainly have an economic impact on small businesses in the city, as homeowners may be forced to absorb the costs associated with the policy. Patriot Subs owner Brian Picero has said that while he supports the elimination of plastic bags, he does not agree with the current proposal.
“I believe we need to get rid of the plastic bags, but I don’t think that’s the way to do it,” he said. “I don’t really support him because [Patriot Subs] can’t absorb this. He’s a lose-lose no matter how you look at him. Either we absorb it and we are already fighting… or the consumer will pay more.
UMW students have had mixed reactions to the proposed plastic bag tax. Jean Mondoro, a double major in senior communication and digital studies and music, said she expected her to meet “some support and negative reactions, especially from the students”.
“There are those who would agree with the environmental factors and support them,” she said. “But on the other hand, there are people like me, who just don’t understand everything and just try to pay the tuition fees. It sounds like another thing to worry about.
Senior Political Science Major Tyler Tarrh reacted positively to the initiative, saying he believed politics “is an effective way to reduce plastic in our environment.”
“Even if the use of plastic does not increase, at least some additional income goes to the city and the business,” he said. “I’m a broke student and I don’t think an extra five cents would matter much to people in the long run.”
Earlier this year, Governor Ralph Northam signed Executive Decree 77, which requires state agencies to begin phasing out “the buying, selling or distributing of all non-medical items made from single-use plastics and expanded polystyrene.” However, according to UMW Dining chief executive David Schneider, state universities have been granted extensions to comply with the mandate.
“Some of the deadlines for meeting the new standards have been extended,” he said. “I can tell you that the catering continues to work closely with the university to achieve the EO77 expectation. Not all of the options for responding to the governor’s OE are readily available.
Schneider went on to note the difficulties associated with implementing such a mandate, saying that “the products available have a much higher price and are not always available for purchase.”
“We face many daily challenges with the supply chain and the workforce,” he said. “For example, the disposal of single-use plastic water bottles was part of the ‘Immediate cessation of use’ in EO77. Suppliers are facing aluminum shortages (due to COVID), which in turn doesn’t give us options outside of plastic. “
“We continue to purchase biodegradable / compostable disposable products maintaining normal levels that meet business demands,” he added.