Congrats! The bag tax has changed my behavior.
By Bryan Dierlam
I have followed the debate and implementation of the D.C. bag tax with consternation. I read in The Post that the law’s proponents wish to encourage people to change their behavior. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) said the law will make people “think about whether they need disposable bags or not when they go to the store.”
What behavior do I need to be encouraged to change? Must I pay five cents even though I already think about my grocery bags?
Here is my family’s current bag behavior: When we buy groceries, we put the empty bags beneath our sink and save them for later reuse. We use them as garbage liners in trash cans instead of buying plastic garbage bags. We store our recyclables in them before placing full bags in the blue bins on recycling day. We place our child’s dirty diapers in them when we are out and about. We occasionally give them to our neighbors, who use them to pick up their dogs’ waste. What, exactly, is wrong with this behavior? Is reduce, reuse, recycle no longer good enough?
We are told this is all about the Anacostia River. I suppose there can be no doubt about that, since, after the grocery stores are paid off with 1 or 2 cents per bag, the remaining proceeds go to an organization dedicated to cleaning the river. Of course, this is a move right out of Political Economics 101 — give the tax revenue to a special interest, and anyone who complains about the tax can be accused of opposing the work of that group.
My family and I will change our behavior by voting with our feet. We’ll go to Virginia to get our bags — and our groceries. I went tonight and was given 55 cents worth of grocery bags free of charge, and they even double-bagged my gallon of milk. I also paid $2.36 in sales tax revenue. I’m not sure that shifting sales tax revenue from the District to Virginia is what the law’s proponents had in mind, but that will be the effect in our household. Unfortunately, it will also affect D.C. businesses.
As for the state of Virginia implementing a similar tax to thwart people like us, good luck getting that past downstate legislators in Richmond. Alexandria and Arlington might try on their own. But last time I checked, the Anacostia doesn’t run there.
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