NORTHERN VIRGINIA (WDVM) — Arlington County and the City of Alexandria voted to adopt a five-cent tax on plastic bags at all grocery, convenience and drug stores.

The localities both adopted the ordinance at public hearings on Saturday, saying the measure is to reduce negative impacts on the environment from the bags. The rulings come after neighboring Fairfax County approved a similar tax last week.

“A decrease in plastic carryout bags will lessen our environmental impact and improve quality of life for our Eco-City by reducing the plastic bags littering our roads and local waterways…This action, coupled with continuing outreach and education that empowers our residents as active partners in these efforts, is one of the many important steps Alexandria and our neighboring jurisdictions are taking toward achieving environmental sustainability.”  

Justin Wilson, Mayor, City of Alexandria

According to a press release from Arlington County, the tax would not apply to certain plastic bags that are:
• Intended for reuse;
• Solely used to wrap, contain or package certain items (ice cream, meat, fish)
• For dry cleaning or prescription drugs;
• Multiple plastic bags sold in packages for garbage, pet waste or leaf removal.

Although the localities voted to implement the tax, residents voiced their disapproval in the public comments section at the meetings.

Scott Pedowitz from the Arlington Chamber of Commerce raised a concern that the tax would fall inequitably within the community.

“Retailers will have a short time as proposed to get familiar with and start collecting this tax,” said Pedowitz. “This will be a particular burden on our smaller neighborhood serving retailers who do not compliance departments, and who may find the particulars of this ordinance confusing.”

The tax will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022 in all three jurisdictions.