Tax on plastic bags adopted by Alexandria City Council

ALEXANDRIA, VA – A plastic bag tax was approved by Alexandria City Council on Saturday, making Alexandria one of three jurisdictions that passed the tax last week.

Localities have the power to implement a single-use plastic bag tax ordinance under State Legislation of 2020. The Arlington County Board of Directors on Saturday voted to pass a plastic bag tax, and the Fairfax County Board of Directors on Tuesday voted for its own plastic bag tax. The 5-cent tax on single-use plastic bags will take effect in all three locations on January 1, 2022 at 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 Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, in a statement. “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 plastic bag tax would not apply to plastic bags intended for re-use; plastic bags used only to wrap, contain or wrap certain items such as ice cream, meat, fish, poultry, produce, unpackaged bulk food or perishable food; plastic bags for dry cleaning or prescription drugs; or more plastic bags sold in garbage, pet waste or leaf disposal packaging.

A portion of the tax goes to the Virginia Department of Taxation for the cost of administering the tax. Retailers withhold part of the tax; until January 1, 2023, they will withhold two cents for each plastic bag taxed. Effective January 1, 2023, the amount retailers will keep will increase to one cent. The localities receive the remainder of the revenue after deductions for traders and tax administration costs.

Under state law, localities can use tax revenues for environmental clean-up; educational programs to reduce environmental waste or combat pollution and waste; or reusable bags for recipients of Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits.

The city council held a first reading of the plastic bag ordinance last Tuesday and the public hearing and final review on Saturday. A virtual public briefing took place on September 8.


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