VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Those hoping for a tax on plastic bags will have to wait a little bit longer to find out if it’ll be coming to Virginia Beach.
Tuesday, City Council voted 7-0 to defer a vote on the issue until Sept. 6.
Environmental advocacy groups, such as Lynnhaven River Now, were pushing for council members to approve the 5-cent per bag fee. They assert people would cut down on the use of plastic bags as a result and that in turn would cut down on litter.
However several council members want to have a larger discussion about litter and invite retailers that would be affected by the tax to the table.
Councilwoman Barbara Henley moved the body to defer a vote on the ordinance that was being sponsored by Councilman Guy Tower. For starters, she said Tower was ill and not in attendance. Secondly, she didn’t find the ordinance broad enough.
If passed, disposable plastic bags at grocery, drug and convenience stores would have a 5-cent fee attached beginning Jan. 1, 2023.
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.
“We’re not really getting to a very broad question. For me it really comes down to litter,” Henley said. “There are a lot of different items that are in the litter that are a problem.”
Henley said Food Lion, which opposed the tax, as well as the Virginia Food Industry Association, want to be a part of discussions on what can be done to cut down on litter.
Henley also referenced that the city must revisit its recycling program, referencing the City of Chesapeake’s recent decision to terminate curbside recycling.
City Council’s vote directs the city manager to come back with a report on what some retailers are already doing to cut down on litter and what the city is currently doing to cut down on litter.
“I feel strongly that this is an opportunity for us to have instead of division, have unity on a way to address this issue in a positive fashion,” Henley said. “I think this is something everybody wants. They want a clean Virginia Beach.”