Committing to take a closer look at litter issues, last night the Virginia Beach City Council deferred voting on the implementation of a 5-cent fee for each plastic bag used by retailers in the city. The Council is expected to take up the matter in 60 days after the city completes a report on litter.
Similar fees in other cities have already resulted in a dramatic reduction in plastic litter. Washington, D.C., adopted a plastic bag fee in 2008 and has since experienced a 72 percent reduction in plastic bag litter found during stream cleanups.
Virginia Beach retailers would be able to keep 1 cent of the fee per bag, and the city would use the rest of the revenue for litter cleanup, environmental restoration and education programs, and offering free reusable bags to recipients of the SNAP and WIC food assistance programs.
Plastic bags are one of the most common forms of litter worldwide.In Virginia, many bags unintentionally pollute parks, beaches, and highways. Cleanup efforts and repairs to infrastructure damaged by plastic bags are costly to Virginian taxpayers.
In addition to being an eyesore, these bags can harm or kill wildlife, clog storm drains (contributing to flooding), and break down into tiny pieces called microplastics that are inadvertently consumed by people and animals. Farmers complain that plastic bags can clog their machinery.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Hampton Roads Grassroots Coordinator Lisa Renee Jennings issued the following statement.
“Virginia Beach is wisely considering a small step that can keep massive numbers of plastic bags from polluting our city. In Virginia Beach our economy and quality of life depend on keeping our beaches and waterways clean. By making a simple switch to reusable bags, people would both avoid the fee while making Hampton Roads an even more beautiful place to live. We’re confident that a careful review of the facts will make clear that a plastic bag fee would lead to major benefits.”