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Alexandria Democrat battles disposable shopping bags

If reporters were grocery items, Del. Adam P. Ebbin, a Democrat from Alexandria, would have had few enough at his press conference to go through the Express Lane.

But that did not stop him making an impassioned case Thursday for adding Virginia to the growing international movement to eliminate or tax disposable shopping bags.

Ebbin's bill, HB1115, would impose a nickel fee on every plastic or paper bag provided to shoppers at grocery, convenience and drug stores in the commonwealth.

Twenty-four nations now ban plastic carryout bags entirely. Among the local jurisdictions that have taken action is the District, whose new nickel fee on disposable bags has already cut bag consumption at some retailers by 50 percent since taking effect Jan. 1.

Of course, the District's new bag fee has also created new and sometimes entertaining challenges for some shoppers, such as juggling groceries or running the parking lot dash for a reusable tote.

Ebbin acknowledged that people sometimes forget, then he whipped out his own reusable bag, a constant pocket-sized companion that was bunched up in its own sack like a tiny sleeping bag.

"It may be a bit wrinkled, but it will hold your groceries," Ebbin said.

Unlike a similiar measure that failed last year, Ebbin's bill allows as much as two cents charged for each bag to be retained by retailers to cover the costs of the new law. The rest would be used to clean Virginia's waterways by contributing to the Virginia Water Quality Improvement Fund. The bill would also impose fines of as much as $1,000 on retailers that failed to comply.

Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, a fellow Democrat from Richmond who had written a similar bill, showed up at the press conference in support of Ebbin's.

"They get in our waterways, they get into our ocean, and they get into our crops," Morrissey said.

Morrissey's bill would have banned non-reusable grocery bags. A House subcommittee, however, voted to effectively eliminate Morrissey's bill, HB521, instead.

Ebbins' bill will be taken up at a House Finance subcommittee meeting Tuesday.

-- Fredrick Kunkle

By Anne Bartlett  |  February 5, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Fredrick Kunkle , General Assembly , General Assembly 2010  
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I am baffled about the purpose of this fee.
If we want to stop littering why not increase the fine for littering rather than punish the innocent.Go after people that litter.
If we want to decrease the carbon footprint then let's not import our vegerables from China.
This fee does nothing.

Posted by: mmad2 | February 5, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Two cents to retailers to cover the cost of the new law? What cost? The retailers are saving money by not having to furnish bags!

Posted by: dottie_b | February 5, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Good job, Ebbin. Some stores are already doing the right thing by giving you a discount when you bring your own bag. This will be a kick in the pants to the others who are behind the times.

To those stores who didn't have the guts to lead on this issue: You're too late. Shut up and follow. Try to think ahead on other issues why don't you.

Note to editors: the title of this article online is misleading, it says "....Dems Battle Bag Fees" when in fact they are using fees to Battle Bag Pollution.

Posted by: dkbain1 | February 5, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Ebbin, can't wait to vote against you and your do-gooder, dictatorial, left-wing, pretend-green, totalitarian dictats. Ebbin, find something worthwhile to shutting up and cutting our taxes.

Posted by: wjc1va | February 5, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

I reuse those bags for disposing used cat litter and lining small garbage cans. If I can't get them with my groceries I will just have to buy them and that doesn't do anything to reduce the amount of bags it just makes me buy them. As usual we all have to suffer for the few that cause the problem.

Posted by: doubled641 | February 5, 2010 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Actually, remembering your plastic bags turns out to be a big problem for many people. The number one reason our community members give for not using reusable bags is that they forget them. That is why we created a FREE car window static cling reminder - go to to get yours today!!
You will never forget your reusable bags again...

ConservingNow Team
Twitter: conservingnow

Posted by: gac2 | February 9, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

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