Bag Tax Law Goes Into Effect Jan. 1

Shoppers can pick up free reusable bags at various locations on Tuesday, starting at noon.


Paper or plastic: If you want a bag at the grocery store, prepare to now pay the price.

With Montgomery County’s new bag law beginning today, shoppers must now pay 5 cents for each non-reusable bag. Of that five cents, the retail establishment keeps one cent per bag for administrative costs.

To ease the transition, the county is distributing a limited number of reusable bags (donated by businesses) at the following locations on Tuesday, starting at noon:

• Safeway, King Farm, 403 Redland Boulevard, Rockville
• , 11244 Triangle Lane, Wheaton
• Bethesda, corner of Woodmont and Bethesda avenues, near the fountain
• Walmart, 20910 Frederick Road, Germantown

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett wil distribute bags at the Safeway in the Hillandale Forest Shopping Center at 10101 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring.

The tax will NOT apply to bags used to carry the following items: prescription drugs, newspapers, garbage, pet waste, yard waste, restaurant leftovers or farmers market goods.

The county expects to earn up to $1.5 million from this tax in the first year. This money will go to the Water Quality Protection Fund (WQPF) to fund stormwater management, watershed restoration and litter clean-up, according to a county press release.

ilkunta January 04, 2012 at 12:23 PM
mocoloco: I think putting papers in storm doors is a great way to reduce waste. But what if there is no storm door? and with so many houses and apartments I think the newspaper delivery ppl would oppose this as they throw and go, they have to deliver the papers by 6am right?
ilkunta January 04, 2012 at 12:23 PM
corbim: if we all start using paper bags for small purchases so what? paper bags self recycle.
ilkunta January 04, 2012 at 12:24 PM
moco loco: how do u know bella didnt borrow the car or ask some1 to drive her to the store so she is worried about her wic groceries busting open and messing up some1 else's car.
ilkunta January 04, 2012 at 12:27 PM
See all these comments? This is what would haave occured if the M C council had been open and announced this intended bag tax instead of just clandestinely passing it.
Ed Murtagh January 04, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Sorry folks. There were many public hearings and an open vote in the spring. Nothing was secret.
ilkunta January 04, 2012 at 12:33 PM
carolyn: thank you! first, ALREADY we pay for the costs of the bags we get in the prices we pay for groceries and clothes and shoes. Now we are giving retailers another 1c. I dont recall the M C council advertising that they were going to have this bag tax. They secretly put it on/up for ballot and passed it, where was the public forum? If there had been I know for sure we would have voiced oppositon as M C's bag tax is far more devastating than DCs. Groceries fine. What reusable bag will hold prom dresses and tuxedos purchased from jcpenny? When it is back to school time what reusbale bag will hold all the shoe boxes? We need to recall or a referendum on this bag tax! There are many who arent on fb, is there a petition on petiton.com? I hope this will work as it was through online orgnanisation and petitions that leggett 's teen curfew failed. i want this bag tax to be recalled. There should be no charge for paper bags, no charge for bags from clothng and shoes stores. Only bag tax on groceries. It is shoppers, giant, safeway bags strewn everywhere not sears clothing bags or payless shoe bags.
Corbin Dallas Multipass January 04, 2012 at 01:47 PM
The patch itself has had countless articles about this, and it's in Patch's interest because it was such a hot topic that it got a lot of page views. The law itself was passed March 15: (http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/dep/downloads/20110503_8-11SIGNEDBILL.pdf via http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/dectmpl.asp?url=/content/dep/water/trashfree.asp) Various groups tried to and are still trying to revoke it, if you feel outraged you should join up with them and see how you can help. Arguably since you didn't hear about the bill those groups didn't do a great job getting out their message either.
Corbin Dallas Multipass January 04, 2012 at 01:54 PM
correction - introduced march 15, passed in may.
Carolyn Elefant January 04, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Lilkunta makes a good point about the lack of bags at shopping malls. I took my daughters to JC Penney on January 1, right after the law had taken effect. It did not even occur to me that bags from stores in the mall would be subject to the ban as they had not publicized it. And because we made a few purchases, I had not option but to get a bag - you can't just carry clothing around the mall freestyle. I also agree that we need a recall. However, I'd like to see retailers take the lead on this on behalf of their customers. Retailers have much more leverage and money than individual consumers, but they didn't say anything because the law doesn't impact them. Retailers get to keep a penny for every bag sold and of course, they save money by not having to supply bags free. Where is that saved money going? Presumably, into retailers' pockets while consumers are burdened. If plastic bags were a problem, why didn't the Council require retailers to use only bio-degradable bags? Oh - because retailers and business matter more to the Council than consumers.
Carolyn Elefant January 04, 2012 at 03:08 PM
I have to agree with Ed here - the law certainly wasn't passed in secret and the meetings were compliant with open meeting law requirements. But at the same time, the Council didn't go out of its way to encourage community input. The Council did not solicit views from consumers on the potential impact of the law. (Sadly, our Council does not have a Facebook page or use social media as do many other government organizations in other states - it is an extremely cost-effective tool). For example, the Council could have asked various PTA organizations about whether minimizing plastic bags would be a pain in the neck for parents who re-use them to pack lunches. It could have reached out to neighborhood organizations to report on whether dog owners would be inconvenienced. It could have had open forums in the shopping malls around the county to elicit information. But the Council did none of those things.
Bubba January 04, 2012 at 03:52 PM
True, there as ample time given by the Council. With that said, they were going to pass it regardless of any opposition. My view at the time was sent to Council members and it was simply ignored. I wanted the ability of consumers to return the bag and get their 5 cents back.
ilkunta January 04, 2012 at 06:18 PM
carolyn: You see. Lack of advertising made you HAVE to buy bags for your clothing store purchases. MoCo's bag tax is well beyond what DC does. You had no choice as you couldnt carry your purchases free hand around the mall. Retailers already charge us for bags, now they are making an additional 1c as you said. I wish they would lead the charge as Im sure they are going to get hassled by customers when told they must pay for the bag. FANTAStic qu! Why didnt the m c concil require the stores give out bio degradeable bags? Instead they just tax us consumers, then wonder why we arent spending? Charging for paper pags makes no sense to me. Those bags are recyclable! I use them to hold the newspapers I put out in the blue recycle bin.
ilkunta January 04, 2012 at 06:22 PM
corbin: i'm a faithful reader of the patch and gazette, and i daily watch county cable montgomery. There was no word. I saw nothing about publuc forum. I didnt hear until fall--in september 2011-- WELL AFTER it had passed. Yet I remember hearing when the DC bag tax was first suggested, heard about community dates for input, heard about its passing. if grocery bags are taxed fine. Clothing store bags shouldnt be and PAPER BAGS SHOULD NOT BE TAXED! They self recycle.
ilkunta January 04, 2012 at 06:22 PM
ed: please share when were the dates?
ilkunta January 04, 2012 at 06:28 PM
carolyn: It is beyond sad that community input wasnt encouraged. Ill remember that when they call me for my vote or campaign donations. I agree about accessibility. First the meetigns are shown on the county CABLE channel, and thought it is 2012 not every1 has cable. This always has bothered me wth the homework helpline being a fantastic resource but if you dont have cable you wouldnt know. The visual of seeing your math problem as the teacher is explaining on the phone is very helpful. back on topic: M C council needs to at least allow us to call in out comments. They meet in rockville in the middle of the day. the working poor cannot take off to go to rockville, but Im sure they can step aside for 5min to call in. grocery bags i understand. clothing stores bags no and PAPER BAG tax is stupid.
Corbin Dallas Multipass January 04, 2012 at 06:52 PM
http://bethesda.patch.com/search?keywords=bag+tax I'm sorry you missed all of these. If the county isn't broadcasting decisions that's another issue besides the bag tax, but personally given how long it has been since the bill's passing and the lack of strong reaction against it I think you face an uphill battle.
ilkunta January 04, 2012 at 08:24 PM
corbin:Yyou shouldnt aplogise. I want the council and ike leggett to. Thanks for the link. Intersting that it was is the bethesda patch not silver spring wheaton takoma . Bethesda is upper middle class so they are more easily able to pay 5c per bag. Had it been in the ss wheaton takoma patch i'm sure there would have been more steam as far as awareness to us all. Same thing for the gazette. Selective notice I feel. Uphill battle is the only way to battle. ANything worth a damn has to be fought for.
ilkunta January 04, 2012 at 08:39 PM
mocoloco: good point. sporadic shopping is not tougher.
Ed Murtagh January 04, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Lilkunta asked about dates: On May 11, 2011 the County Exec. Signed the Bag Bill into law. There is a lot of information on the Council website and a good search engine. You can see from the transcripts that there was passionate debate on both sides. The public was invited and did participate (the word could have better gotten out but many knew about it). This debate went on for weeks. And was covered in the newspapers. There were many letters to the Editor in the spring in the Gazette newspapers About why paper bags are included and plastic newspaper bags are excluded, in politics there is a lot of compromise and in the end the laws have aspects that people will not like. I assume the plastic bag industry made sure that paper bags were included even though from my point of view they are not really nearly as much of a problem. They did want the stores to switch to paper bags. In D.C. they had to include paper bags too. I think everyone should do a little research on the Council website first before posting. You all might not be so angry. You will see for example that retailers are not going to make any money off the penny a bag they will get. That will be enough only to cover their expenses in collecting and dealing with the fees,.
Ed Murtagh January 04, 2012 at 09:23 PM
regarding the council not listening to the people (not sure what that means since many people were very supportive of the bill). During the hearings, I do not think opponents had any real solutions on addressing litter The issues leading up to this law are quite complicated, but basically Montgomery County can not continue polluting our streams with trash/litter. The Clean Water act does not allow that. To make matters worse, much of out litter goes into other jurisdictions. Much Wheaton’s litter eventually for example will find its way into low income minority communities in the District of Columbia creating a costly problem in D.C. How should we address this problem? I would be interested in hearing solutions to this problem.
Corbin Dallas Multipass January 04, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Thank you Ed for taking the time to post this.
Paul Hlavinka January 05, 2012 at 03:15 AM
I have used the re-usable bags for years. Not because I wanted $.05 back, but because I just think it makes good sense. I bring 4, and that is usually more than enough to package all that I buy for a week. I have had no problems with leaked juices from meats or other health issues related to using these bags. I cannot imagine that if my bags got dirty I would have any problem cleaning them just as I would clean say a counter in the kitchen. Why do folks want to have their groceries put into those thin plastic bags just to be trown away when you get home? I am afraid the logic behind the "save the plastic bag" campaign is escaping me this time.
MocoLoco January 05, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Paul--you used canvas bags because they made sense. So do I! My beef is with the government coercing us to do this, via the nickel fee. Everyone talks about how they use these bags for groceries. Fine. But, the Montgomery County Council didn't just impose the fee on grocery store bags. They extended it to all plastic bags--including clothing stores, office supply stores, etc. I don't carry my canvas bags around with me 24/7. So, I'm made to pay the fee when I go shopping. Every time I pay that fee, I despise our leaders a little bit more. I just wish this county weren't so reliably Democrat so that those leaders would fear a little bit for their jobs.
ilkunta January 05, 2012 at 02:26 PM
bubba: why do you say that this bag tax was going to pass regardless of opposition? did the plastics industry make a huge donation to the councilmembers and leggett ?
ilkunta January 05, 2012 at 02:33 PM
ed: I'm glad you admit that the council should have better publicised this tax was being considered. i read the gazette weekly. i have today's here with me now. i read many comments AFTERWARDS in the fall when it was on the news that the M C council had passed the tax. I dont recall comments in the early spring when it was being considered. You say do research on the county website: if this info was there last spring as you claim and we the masses didnt know about it, what makes you think that now there will be more info/more opennness? Retailers are going to profit. Already we pay for their bags (they arent cheap white bags afterall, they have shoppers, aldi, safeway, giant, macys, etc and logos/emblems on them) in the item price. Already stores have to remit sales tax to the county and state, so it isnt as if they have to get a new payroll company or accountant to remit this bag tax. That 1c will add up to profits. A detailed study would be nice to proove otherwise, but there is no money for that is what the county will claim.
ilkunta January 05, 2012 at 02:35 PM
moco loco: exactly! It is shoppers giant safeway aldi bags on the roads, not staples office depot macys jcpenny etc. The bag tax should be for groceries stores only. The paper bag tax needs to be totally repealed.
Carolyn Elefant January 05, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Moco, I feel exactly the same way. My beef is that I have always recycled the plastic bags. Before I had kids and dogs and commuted to DC each day, I used the bags to pack my lunch - and my husband and I would dispose of extras at the recycling cans at Giant or Safeway. After I had kids, disposed of diapers and pack lunches and now with two dogs, I use the bags for waste. Maybe canvas bags work for groceries - but they are a hassle for anything else. I never used lunch boxes/sacks with my girls because they either lose them on the bus or get so dirty that they have to be washed (and therefore use soap and water). As others have pointed out, it is problematic to carry clothing purchases in a canvas bag. Also, I would be curious to see how many working parents, particularly moms really support this law (no offense, but moms often bear the brunt of shopping and childcare responsibilities; yes, this is a generalization). I realize that in and of itself, it does not sound inconvenient to take a canvas bag to a grocery store or leave it in the trunk. But if you are trying to finish your shopping with a 2 year old and race off to pick up a 4 year old from pre-school and leave your bag in the car, what are the chances that you are going to trek out to the garage to retrieve it. Finally, why shouldn't RETAILERS bear any impact. Retailers could have said "look, we'll get bio-degradable bags." Retailers could have offered to give customers 5 cents back and didnt do that
Corbin Dallas Multipass January 05, 2012 at 03:03 PM
http://silverspring.patch.com/search?keywords=bag+tax http://gaithersburg.patch.com/search?keywords=bag+tax Patch regularly shares content between patches - wheaton patch stuff shows up on my bethesda patch front page all the time. https://encrypted.google.com/search?q=montgomery+county+bag+tax&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a It's been all over the news. Sorry, I don't think it's fair that you get to say you are well informed and a loyal reader when there is a plethora of information and articles that were out there and you claim you were taken by surprise. Local news channels had stories about it, local papers talked about it, even national forums such as Forbes, the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post had coverage. I'm sympathetic to you, lilkunta, and to others here debating because for once people have been arguing logical arguments instead of false arguments (paper bags and effects on working mothers/poor instead of things like "dirty bags", which has been disproven). But it is demonstrably false to say anything about the county passing this in the dark and claim there is some sort of lack of media coverage.
ilkunta January 05, 2012 at 08:51 PM
corbin: thanks for the links but again, how many of those were in this patch? silver spring patch? One has to read takoma/potomac/colesville/darnestown patch to get full story on happenings in MoCo? Again I do feel that I am well informed. If you look here http://silverspring.patch.com/articles/northwood-students-testify-in-support-of-the-plastic-bag-fee you see I did comment. Local news covered it in May AFTER it passed not in feb/mar when it was up for proposal. In contrast the local news were all over all the anti teen curfew and we all knew where to go in SS to join the youth protests, where to go to sign the online petiton, when the forum was in rockville. As a matter of fact I remember the news reporting all the time about the DC bag tax went it up for for vote, incontrast to moCo which got press after the vote. I feel the bill was passed in the dark bc I dont recall reading about the open forum on patch or in the SS gazette. I do recall ALOT of info AFTER THE BILL PASSED. Again, when was the dirty bags theory disproven? Were customers canvas bags randomly checked for bacteria? I dont feel it is demonstrably false. Is there a way to look at past council meetings online? I need to call craig rice's office.
Ed Murtagh January 06, 2012 at 12:13 AM
About the earlier posting about feeling coerced into not using plastic bags. Being coerced means being forced to do something. If a typical person here uses 40 to 60 plastic bags a month. (I have no idea if this is accurate but in the ball park I would say), that will cost you two or three dollars a month. This is an inconvenience, not coercion. On the other hand if I were to decide that I was totally fed up with paying taxes to subsidize the disposable plastics lifestyle (it costs millions of taxpayer dollars a year and growing) my wages would be garnished or my house would be taken and sold to pay for those taxes. That is coercion. I think you should be free to use plastic disposables, but I don’t think I should have to subsidize that life style ( I will still be subsidizing the use of plastic bottles, Styrofoam etc…………. that is enough for me ) also just because you dont litter does not mean you are not contributing to the problem inadvertently. On Monday it was trash day in our community. It was very windy the night before and plastic trash was all over the place. Much of it was blown into the stormdrains and are now on their way to Sligo Creek.


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