As a signator to the Trash Free Potomac Treaty, I am pleased to tell you that Montgomery County is moving one step closer to significantly reducing the number of plastic bags in our streams, trees and parks.
Yesterday, the County Executive announced that he would be sending to our Council legislation patterned after the successful program in DC that would impose a five cent per bag fee on all plastic and paper bags distributed by businesses in Montgomery County. As Chair of the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee, I joined the County Executive and leaders of the environmental community for this important announcement.
In my remarks supporting this initiative, I described the proposal as an "optional fee" rather than a tax - and it isn't just semantics to avoid the dreaded tax word. We all have a choice here: bring a reusable bag to the store and avoid the fee. The goal of the program isn't to raise money - it is to help us to change our behavior.
And the financial nudge works - in the District of Columbia, the preliminary results are that there is a 50-60% reduction in the use of plastic bags. In addition, the business community, which was obviously wary at first, has found that it isn't an imposition on them after all: businesses are saving money by not having to provide bags and 78% of businesses had a neutral or positive response as to how the bag fee was impacting their business.
I believe this is a win/win that gives everyone the freedom to either carry a bag or buy a bag. A simple solution to a complex problem.