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Newspaper 'Sleeves' Are Safe From D.C. Plastic Tax

By Andy Alexander

The D.C. Council’s unanimous vote yesterday to assess a 5-cent tax on plastic bags prompted a few Post readers to contact me with a logical question: What about those plastic delivery bags that cover their morning newspaper?

The Post's Metro section story this morning might have noted that newspapers are among a broad range of entities exempted in the legislation, which must pass another vote later this month in order to become law. It would impose the 5-cent tax on most bags leaving grocery, convenience, drug and liquor stories. The intent is to discourage the use of plastic and paper bags while at the same time raising money to clean up the polluted Anacostia River. The measure is sponsored by council members Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3).

The Post has written several editorials supporting the nickel tax, including one that ran several days before a hearing on the legislation in early April.

Charles Allen, chief of staff to Wells, said today that several critics of the bill at the hearing “testified that they thought it was hypocritical for The Post to support it editorially because they put their newspapers in bags.”

“So we called The Post,” he said, and received assurances that the bags were recyclable.

Aside from the question of whether the newspaper bags are eco-friendly, he said, the legislation is “simply trying to apply common sense” in designating which bags should be taxed.

For instance, he said, there should not be a tax on plastic bags that cover dry cleaning. He said the same would be true of the plastic newspaper “sleeves,” which are intended to protect newspapers from moisture from rain, snow or morning dew.

Allen said the following are exempted in the legislation:

  • Newspaper bags, door-hanger bags, laundry-dry cleaning bags, or packages of bags intended for use in holding garbage, pet waste, or yard waste.

  • Bags provided by pharmacists for prescription drugs;

  • Bags used by consumers inside stores to package bulk items such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, candy, or small hardware items.

  • Bags to wrap frozen foods, meat or fish, flowers or potted plants, or other items where dampness may be a problem; and

  • Bags to carry unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods.

By Andy Alexander  | June 3, 2009; 2:27 PM ET
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Thank goodness for common sense. Had our morning companion been threatened with such a killer tax, those of us, who prefer to take WaPo dry, would've had to storm the Council.

BTW, anyone know what's down with's "The Gene Pool" - Gene Weingarten's discussion group?

For two days now, it alone has failed to open, giving me instead an error message. I've tried every which way I know, including using a friends' computer, but no go. Before contacting WaPo, I'd like to ascertain it's not just me.

Posted by: jhbyer | June 5, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

"The Gene Pool" is back in bid'ness.

Posted by: jhbyer | June 5, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

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