VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Environmental groups hope that in the next several months, you will have to pay a fee in order to carry out your groceries in plastic bags in Virginia Beach.
Lynnhaven River Now is leading up the coalition that on Tuesday made a pitch to Virginia Beach City Council to implement a 5-cent fee per disposable plastic bag at grocery, drug and convenience stores.
The goal is to discourage the use of plastic bags while also better funding the cleanup of plastic bags that still make their way to the beaches, waterways, and parks of the city.
If City Council does adopt the proposal, it’ll be the first locality in Hampton Roads to do so since the Virginia General Assembly allowed for the new fee in 2020.
“We wanted to act in 2020,” Karen Forget, the executive director of Lynnhaven River Now said. “At the time in COVID-19, we didn’t think it was fair to retailers but now we feel it is time.”
Forget said single-use plastic bags are among the most commonly littered items in Virginia Beach and the state. She said they are threatening ecosystem health and creating eyesores.
For those concerned about extra burdens during a period of inflation, she said that consumers are currently paying for the price of plastic bags in their shopping already. She also adds that taxpayers are usually the ones paying for the cleanup.
Under state law, the majority of money raised by the fee will go back to the city and must support environmental cleanup, litter and pollution mitigation or environmental education efforts. The city could use funds to provide reusable bags to recipients of SNAP or WIC benefits.
The fee would not be imposed on meat and produce bags in grocery stores. It also wouldn’t impact farmers’ markets, restaurants and department stores .
Jim Deppe, who leads Lynnhaven River Now Advocacy efforts, said results have already been seen in the state in other communities. Roanoke, Fairfax County, Alexandria, Arlington, Loudoun County, Fredericksburg, Falls Church and Albemarle County have all implemented the fee.
“In Fairfax County, so far they have two-quarters worth of data … they’ve seen a 70 to 80% reduction in bags in their urban streams and waterways. Which is significant,” Deppe said.
Councilman Guy Tower plans to sponsor the resolution to implement the fee in the coming months.
No other council members commented on the proposal.