5 cent plastic bag tax approved in Fairfax County


Ariya Lee and Sibani Anbumani

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the 5-cent plastic bag tax to prevent single-use plastic bags from ending up in our environment on September 14. 

This taxing will begin on January 1, 2022. The plastic bag tax will apply to grocery, convenience, and drug stores. There will be some exceptions like plastic bags that are reusable, bags used for perishable food items, bags for dry cleaning, and waste bags such as garbage bags. The plastic bag tax is five cents per bag— meaning if you use five bags, it will cost you 25 cents. 

“Plastic bags are one of the most common items found during community cleanups of our parks, streams, and lakes,” Supervisor of Braddock District (located in VA) James Walkinshaw said. When a plastic bag makes its way to the ocean, creatures could become entangled in the bags, and sea life could mistake the bag for food and eat it. The plastic breaks down in the water over time, making it smaller and smaller and harder to clean up from the ocean. Virginia itself uses over 3 million plastic bags each year.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted the tax with a vote of 9 to 1. Pat Herrity was the one person who did not vote for the tax. Herrity agreed that the plastic bags were an issue, and it needed to change but disagreed on charging customers. 

“We need to address litter issues which is why I’ve proposed ways to do that without taxing our residents,” Herrity said. 

Some other people are against this tax, like Former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler (currently a Fairfax County resident). Wheeler spoke in opposition to this tax and called it “regressive.” Wheeler also said, “I’m afraid no matter what the good intentions might be on the plastic bag proposal, that I have to adamantly oppose the tax. It is misguided and could ultimately do more environmental harm than good, and taxes like these disproportionately impact low-income families, senior citizens, and others on fixed incomes.”

Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Jeff McKay, said. “I hope not a single person will need to pay this tax as it is completely avoidable.”

On the other side, James Walkinshaw said, “It’s not really about charging people. It’s reminding people to change their behavior and helping them along to do it.”

The taxing of these single-use plastic bags is also occurring in Alexandria and Arlington, where the vote was unanimous to adopt the tax. Other states in America also have agreed to this taxing.