The Great DC Bag Experiment


Starting January 1 of this year (2010) everybody in the district will be coughing up 5 cents to get a plastic or paper bag from every place that sells food or alcohol. That’s right we’ve reached the point where American laziness is preventing progress and we are switching to forceful laws (aka progressive taxation).

It’s really a test of environmental will which I’m calling the ‘great DC bag experiment‘.  The revenue from the bag tax will go towards cleaning up the Anacostia River. A laudable cause. Even a progressive one. In this day/age when we have given up on our rivers the DC City Council is making a play.

Dig a little deeper and you can find an interesting swirl of facts. Like this being a tax on the poor, avoiding the rich who already own reusable bags. But, the website shows that over 460,000 reusable bags will be given out. With less that 600,000 people in the district that covers 76% of all residents. Assuming the reusable bags can get to the less fortunate in DC, this is almost a non-issue. There appears to be some enlightened leadership in our DC government (gasp!).

Then we can talk about laziness. Or, better yet, this whole reusable bag thing is an issue of the well off. I mean who among the poor class really cares about spending an extra 2-20$ on a bamboo or recycled plastic bag. I guess it’s time for them to start caring. Their excuse is lack of money. What about the rest of us. Laziness? Habit? Apathy?

Time and time again we are finding that Americans just don’t care. They have given up on their rivers, beaches, bays, and parks. The ease of disposable goods is way to alluring, compared to keeping that reusable bag in ur trunk. Most governments around the country and world are finding themselves with one option. Lawmaking. Force people to develop new habits through taxation, fines, and built-in surcharges.

Take that libertarians. Guess its not possible to be a libertarian and an environmentalist.

The ironic part here is that I’m betting DC residents will now start carrying a reusable bag around to avoid that 5 cent charge. Ironic in that pollution, waste, landfills, global warming, dirty rivers, ruined bays – matter zilch to people. But, charge them a nickel and they act like the world is on fire.

The last thing to point out here is that each place you shop at is now saving money. They need to buy less bags and can add to their profit margins. You can bet they won’t be passing that savings onto us, the enlightened consumer. Better/worse yet the new law pays them one cent for doing nothing except participating. Two cents for offering you a nickel rebate when u bring in a reusable bag. Hmmm…you think that is fair?

All right well I expect to see some grumbling and complaining as our “Skip the Bag, Save the River” law comes into effect. You can bet I’ll be watching for that and to see how this great experiment plays out.

DC Bans Free Bags at Stores

District businesses will charge customers five cents for every disposable paper or plastic carryout bag beginning January 1, 2010, with the proceeds going to the Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Fund…the bag fee is the first of its kind in the nation..

July 7, 2009

Mayor Fenty Signs Landmark Environmental Legislation

Five cents a bag…will be interesting to see how this is enacted…

The DDOE will administer the fund, using the proceeds to educate the public about the impact of trash, to provide reusable bags to District residents, and to remove trash from the river.

I know the good folks at DDOE and I hope they can keep up with all the business, bags, and taxes collectors needed for this…

By October, DDOE will begin a public education campaign about the new law and establish a public-private partnership to distribute reusable bags to District residents.

Sounds like some city contracts are up for grabs. I think the Greater Greater Washington group is watching all of this…but their website is not too clear about that.

It is interesting that the Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Fund was passed unanimously. Could be a good time to push more green needs across the table to the ‘green’ DC Council.

Lastly, thanks to George Dawkins, head of DDOE, for really pushing hard for green changes in our fair city:

“The Anacostia is a river in crisis, and our team sees evidence of that crisis every day with what we pull out of the water.” said DDOE Director George S. Hawkins. “But this bill has given us an extraordinary opportunity. We will now begin a District-wide conversation about trash and its effects, while at the same time removing a major source of that trash.”

Trash on the Anacostia River after a rainstorm.
Trash on the Anacostia River after a rainstorm.