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Leggett Prepares Shoppers for County Bag Tax

Under a new Montgomery County law, paper or plastic bags from retailers cost customers five cents.

Dozens of shoppers popping into Safeway in Hillandale got a bit more than they bargained for as they were greeted by Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). He visited the store Tuesday morning to give away hundreds of reusable grocery bags.

Customers without their own bag pay a nickel for each paper or plastic grocery bag under the county’s bag tax, which took effect on Jan. 1.

“We're making a very strong effort in the next few days to , to make sure people understand the law,” Leggett said. The county executive introduced the bill last spring and it with just one opposing vote. (Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) was a vocal opponent.)

The tax is expected to generate about a million dollars in revenue this year, according to Leggett. The money will go toward solid waste management, watershed restoration, litter pick-up and stormwater management.

“This is not a revenue generator for us,” Leggett explained. “Montgomery County’s budget is about $4.6 billion so a million is hardly a revenue source that is going to make a difference in Montgomery County."

“If we get more money, that means we’re not as successful,” he continued. “We would prefer to have less money, that means people are using the bags.”

Volunteers fanned out at other locations throughout the county as well. In Bethesda, volunteers from Barwood Taxi, who have already doled out about 2,000 of the re-usable bags for drivers to pass along to their riders, handed out about 150 bags at the fountain in front of the

The taxi company was also on hand at the Safeway in King Farm with another 150 bags.

A spokesperson for Safeway’s DC-area stores said the company doesn’t “necessarily” support the tax, but that stores have tried to get on board to avoid passing on a cost to customers. Signs were posted near entrances and at checkstands to remind customers about the tax.

“It’s our goal that no one has to pay a nickel, we hope that everyone brings a reusable bag,” said Gregory TenEyck, director of public affairs for Safeway’s eastern division.

“The nickel is enough to encourage people to bring reusable bags, but it’s also not so much that people are being dramatically affected financially. It’s an inconvenience to have to pay an extra nickel, dime, quarter for some bags that you used to get for free.”

Trisha Chicas, a Hillandale resident, was prepared to pay a few cents extra before Leggett handed her a couple of complimentary bags. 

“It’s a lot of work to bring your bags,” she said. “Sometimes you forget, you have kids […] I have two [reusable bags] and I forgot them.

“I understand the point in a way, but I think people will still forget,” Chicas said.

Ddad99 January 04, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Yet another money grab by the County Council. What's next? A hand tax for those who forgot their bag and just carry their purchases out of the store?
Elizabeth W Tordella January 04, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Montgomery County seeks any way possible to separate residents from their hard earned money. If the county wanted to curb plastic litter, then they should have stayed with a ban or tax on plastic bags but to include paper, a biodegradable commodity, is outrageous. The 1 cent fee that the county allows merchants to retain as compensation for the additional bookkeeping is not sufficient to meet the true costs they incur for this legislation. It will be very interesting to see how the loss components of doing business rise since customers can now bring and, in some cases fill their own bags with items not paid for. Once the losses begin to rise, additional security personnel will be added and the cost for this vigilance will be added to the cost of goods (anti-consumer). Consumers who bring bags will limit purchases to the bags they bring in which will limit the spending (anti-business). And, what store wants merchandise leaving their establishment in bags that advertise a competitor (anti-business)? This legislation harms consumers and is anti-business. Address the plastic litter but leave paper bags alone.
Corbin Dallas Multipass January 04, 2012 at 11:01 PM
"It will be very interesting to see how the loss components of doing business rise since customers can now bring and, in some cases fill their own bags with items not paid for." They could have done this anyway - it's not like retailers were banning people from using their own bags before this law. "Consumers who bring bags will limit purchases to the bags they bring in which will limit the spending (anti-business)." Doubtful. They will either carry some small item in your hand or pay an extra five cents. If you made the trip somewhere for something necessary, then you're going to buy it. Also, people can get quite ingenious about packing stuff in bags when they want to avoid 5 cents. "And, what store wants merchandise leaving their establishment in bags that advertise a competitor (anti-business)?" Again,people have been doing this anyway, besides, anyone could already wear a shirt or other attire for another business when they buy stuff. So nothing changes. As for Paper vs Plastic you should see Ed Murtaugh's post on a similar thread: http://bethesda.patch.com/articles/bag-tax-law-goes-into-effect-jan-1#comment_2153537

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