Two D.C. Council committees approved legislation today that would require consumers to pay 5 cents for paper or plastic bags at grocery stores, convenience stores and other retail outlets where food is involved.
The Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act of 2009 could end up being the toughest law on plastic and paper bags in the country, forcing consumers to use reusable bags.
According to a press release from Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), "the Committee on Finance and Revenue and the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment held back-to-back meetings to mark-up and approve the legislation this morning."
The idea is that the legislation will target plastic bags, which are helping to pollute the Anacostia River. Plastic bags travel as litter into storm drains and intor the river. Paper bags was included in the legislation when store owners explained the expense of providing consumers with paper, instead of plastic.
"Over 20,000 tons of trash enters the Anacostia River each year leaving a polluted, dirty and neglected river bordering our neighborhoods - today's vote is a big step in the right direction," Wells said in a statement.
Advocates for low-income residents and the plastics and paper industries have lobbied against the legislation as costly for poor people who would have to worry about a "bag tax" when they are trying to buy groceries. The legislation would provide low-income and elderly residents with reusable bags.