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County of Arlington, City of Alexandria and County of Fairfax Decide to Pass Plastic Bag Tax


The County of Arlington, the City of Alexandria and the County of Fairfax are simultaneously taking action to reduce the negative environmental impacts of single-use plastic bags by passing local plastic bag tax ordinances in each jurisdiction.

Alexandria City Council and Arlington County Council passed their ordinances in public hearings on Saturday, September 18, which followed Fairfax County’s adoption of their ordinance on Tuesday, September 14. The Plastic Bag Tax Ordinance allows jurisdictions to impose a tax of five cents ($ 0.05) tax on each disposable plastic bag collected from grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores.

“A decrease in take-out plastic bags will reduce our environmental impact and improve the quality of life in our eco-city by reducing the plastic bags that litter our local roads and waterways,” said the mayor of the city of Alexandria, Justin Wilson. “This action, coupled with ongoing awareness and education that enables our residents to become active partners in these efforts, is one of many important steps taken by Alexandria and our neighboring jurisdictions to achieve environmental sustainability.”

The effective tax date would be January 1, 2022 for all three jurisdictions. The City of Alexandria, Arlington County and Fairfax County have worked closely with the Northern Virginia Regional Waste Management Council to align awareness, education, timelines and a common language for localities to ensure consistency and clarity.

“Arlington is proud to take this step to reduce plastic bag waste in our community and to do so with our regional partners,” said Arlington County Board Chairman Matt de Ferranti. “We have long sought legal permission to pay this small fee as a way to protect our environment and become a more sustainable community. We look forward to working with residents and neighbors on the implementation. “

In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly adopted the Virginia Code 58.1-1745, which allows any county or city in Virginia to impose a five-cent per bag tax on disposable plastic bags provided to customers by convenience stores, drugstores and grocery stores. The Virginia Department of Tax Administration has released final Virginia Disposable Plastic Bag Tax Guidelines September 1, 2021.

The five-cent plastic bag tax would apply to single-use plastic bags in grocery stores, convenience stores and drugstores. The tax would not apply to plastic bags intended for re-use; plastic bags used only to wrap, contain or wrap certain items (ice cream, meat, fish, poultry, fresh produce, unpackaged bulk foods or perishable foods); plastic bags for dry cleaning or prescription drugs; or more plastic bags sold in garbage, pet waste or leaf disposal packaging.

“Working with Arlington and Alexandria to solve the plastic pollution problem makes perfect sense,” said Jeff McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. “Environmental issues like pollution and water quality do not respect political or geographic boundaries, they are shared concerns that affect us all equally. I hope no one will need to pay this tax as it is completely avoidable. I commend my peers in Arlington and Alexandria for passing their plastic bag tax ordinances. We look forward to working together to reduce pollution locally and improve our natural environment in the years to come. ”

Until January 1, 2023, retailers affected by the tax will be able to keep two cents for every five cents collected from each plastic bag. After January 1, 2023, the amount will increase to one cent.

The collected taxes can be used for cleaning the environment; provide educational programs designed to reduce environmental waste, mitigate pollution and waste; or to provide reusable bags to beneficiaries of Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits.

Visit the Plastic Bag Tax Webpage for frequently asked questions and more information.

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