Could a paper and plastic bag tax come to Virginia grocery stores?

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RICHMOND, Va. — With a week left until the 2019 Legislative Session begins, Virginia lawmakers are already getting to work on a change you’d see at the check-out line. 

The doors were open at Pleasants Hardware on Patterson Ave. Wednesday. Assistant manager Betsy Quick was at the check out.

“We use plastic most all of the time,” she explained. “But if they prefer paper, we do have it.”

Employees go through a lot of bags when it gets busy, on a given day they use up to 50. On the weekend they’ll double that if they’re really busy, Quick says. 

Over her 16 years at the shop, Quick has noticed more people coming in with reusable bags too. 

“A lot of people in this area care more about things than in other areas,” she said. 

The folks at Pleasants could see more reusable bags coming in because of a renewed push at the Virginia capitol to decrease the number of disposable or “one use bags.” 

The different bills, one proposed by Del. Betsy Carr (D – District 69) and another by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D – District 30) and Del. Kaye Kory (D – District 38), were submitted ahead of session. These pieces of legislation, if passed by the General Assembly, would allow localities tax plastic and paper bags at 5 cents. For every bag taxed a nickel, a penny would go to the store collecting it. 

There are a few exceptions, including bags used to carry ice cream or meat, take out from restaurants, as well as bags that carry prescription drugs. 

According to the bills, “Such ordinance shall provide that the locality shall use the funds for pollution and litter mitigation.” 

Paper and plastic bag taxes have been proposed before in Virginia. It’s a change also being seen nationwide in other localities as an effort to help the environment. 

A shopper heading to the grocery store in Richmond thinks it’s a change that could make a difference. 

“If you have a big shopping list, it might be a couple of dollars to someone,” Travis Sanders, of Richmond, said while holding reusable bags. “Hopefully it will deter people from using plastic bags.” 

The bills would need to be approved by lawmakers before taking any effect in your local stores. The 2019 Legislative Session starts next Wednesday. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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