At a special ceremony held in Rockville, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett today signed into law, Bill 8-11 that will place a five-cent charge on each paper or plastic carryout bag provided by retail establishments in the County to customers at the point of sale, pickup or delivery. Retailers would receive a one-cent rebate from each bag to help cover administrative costs. The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2012.
Revenues from the tax -- estimated at about $1.5 million in the first year -- would be directed to the Water Quality Protection Fund (WQPF) that pays for things such as stormwater management, watershed restoration and litter clean-up. Plastic bags are one of the top four items found in County streams and stormwater controls. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) staff said that in 2009 the County spent approximately $3 million for litter prevention and clean-up programs.
Signing the bill in his conference room in the Executive Office Building, surrounded by County Council members and environmental advocates, Leggett thanked the County Council for approving the bag charge bill and commended the local environmental community for their advocacy for the bill.
“Between now and January 1, 2012, when the legislation takes effect,” Leggett noted, “we will work to educate residents to help them prepare for the transition to having re-useable bags become part of their shopping routine.
“This is good for the environment, and I expect many people who are not already doing this to adjust, “said Leggett. “ As I have said before, we do not see this as a source of revenue. The more people who use reusable bags, the less revenue to the County and that is just fine.”
“This law will create an incentive for residents to decrease their reliance on disposable bags that often end up in our streams and tributaries,” said Council President Valerie Ervin. “I know how important this issue is from my service on the Chesapeake Bay Trust. My hope is that the County can partner with corporate sponsors to conduct reusable bag giveaways to assist our residents, especially those who have limited incomes.”
“Congratulations to our County Executive and thanks for all those who helped make this new initiative a reality,” said County Council Vice President Roger Berliner. “The bag fee asks all of us to be part of the solution to a cleaner environment and a healthier Chesapeake Bay. Sometimes taking responsibility takes a nudge. Our business community welcomes us in partnership in taking this small but significant step in the right direction.”
For more information about the bill, visit the County’s homepage at www.montgomerycountymd.gov and click on the “Disposable Carryout Bags” headline.
Highlights of the Law
The proposed law defines a “retail establishment” as any supermarket, convenience store, shop, service station, restaurant or any other sales outlet where a customer purchases goods.”
The customer’s receipt will indicate the number of carryout bags that have been provided by the store and the total charge levied.
Exempt under the law are:
- a bag provided by a pharmacist that contains prescription drugs;
- any newspaper bag or bag intended for initial use as a garbage, pet waste or yard waste bag;
- a bag provided at the point of sale at a stand at a seasonal event such as a farmers market; or
- a paper bag that a restaurant provides to a customer to take prepared food or drink away from the restaurant.
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