Plastic Bag Tax: Better Late Than Never

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, September 18, 2021.

I endorse the proposed plastic bag tax as a necessary and provident step to end pollution of the Potomac River and its tributaries. However, I don’t like the County’s spin. In announcing the proposal the County described itself as “a national leader in sustainability efforts, ranging from its plan to become a carbon-neutral community by 2050 to its addition this month of residential curbside food scraps collection, diverting substantial organic waste from trash to create beneficial compost.”

Boasting about being a sustainability leader might come as news to the 400+ cities that had already banned or taxed plastic bags by August, 2019.

County Board will tell you that it couldn’t adopt a bag tax until the legislature authorized localities to do so in 2020. Yet for ten years it resisted Green Party calls to adopt a bag ban, which was already permissible under state regulations governing solid waste disposal.

Another fiction is Arlington’s plan to become carbon neutral by 2050. This cannot happen until Dominion Power loses its grip on the state legislature. While Dominion has acceded to a mandatory renewable energy portfolio standard, the carveouts for renewables are anemic by comparison with other states. If Arlington wants to zero out its carbon emissions by 2050, it’s going to have to lobby for a more aggressive renewable energy portfolio standard and stop declaring itself biophilic when it is not.