Daily Archives: January 18, 2012

Why I support the bag tax. Sort of.

This morning I read an article about a dog owner who opposed the Montgomery County bag tax. While the article was interesting, I mostly paid attention to the comments and wondered where I stood in this issue.

The post — which I see now was posted under the “events” section of our local “Patch” website — is now gone, but there were some interesting comments.

Backing up — if you don’t live in Montgomery County Maryland, you may be wondering what I am talking about. See, as of January 1, 2012 stores are required to charge 5¢ for each bag used to hold purchases. From what I read this morning (which may or may not be true) 4¢ of this is tax and 1¢ is retained by the business. Apparently the tax was created to curtail the problem with plastic bag litter and something to do with stormwater.

The initial article was by a woman who felt the law was a problem for dog owners because dog owners recycled plastic bags by using them to hold their dog’s waste. She also mentioned how she reused other plastic bags for lunches. Other comments agreed with the initial post while a few disagreed. Some agreed but for different reasons.

When I first heard about the tax I was concerned. Not because I worried I might have to pay 5¢ a bag at the grocery store but because I worried about the dog people who would need to buy their bags for their dog’s waste and because I was using plastic grocery bags to dispose of lumps from my kitty litter at the time. I also worried about the workers who traveled to Montgomery County on public transportation. What if they wanted to buy something at the store before going home? They would have to carry cumbersome reusable bags to avoid paying 5¢ a bag.

For me the tax is no big deal. I’ve sporadically used reusable bags for years. In fact I have a very old, waxy and sturdy bag from Giant Food that I probably bought in the early 1990’s — back when you were looked at strangely (and hostilely by some cashiers) when you presented your own bag, especially when you requested they not first put your groceries in plastic bags before putting them in the bags you brought.

I also spent some time in Ireland a couple of years ago where one is charged quite a bit more than 5¢ a bag. I think it was more like 45¢, but those Euros confuse me. Thinking about that trip, a  tax seems like nothing.

I like the tax for myself because it makes me remember ((Some of the people complaining about the law said that those of us who brought our own bags were doing to to “avoid the tax”. I like to think of it more as “to help save the environment”, but that’s just me…)) to bring those bags I’ve collected over several years to the stores. There is no need to add more plastic bags to landfills. We can figure out a different way to dispose of our cat’s waste and my husband will need to figure out a more creative way to transport his lunch to work.

I’m sorry about dog owners and their plastic bag issues, but the lack of free plastic bags has made me a tiny bit more respectful of the resource.

We’ve come a long way from me having to remove my gallons of milk from plastic bags in front of surly cashiers in the checkout line to cashier’s being surprised that the woman in line behind me didn’t have her own grocery bag. It is a small step, but I think it is a step in the right direction.

That said, if the law were repealed I’d be okay with that too. But I’d still bring my own bags.

(Please note that the tax includes all retail shops [with a few exceptions] which means if you go to any store in Montgomery County you’ll need to either have brought your own bag or pay the tax)