VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — There will be no city-imposed fee for use of plastic bags at area stores, well at least right now.
On Tuesday night, Councilman Guy Tower moved to withdraw his proposal to implement a 5-cent per bag fee aimed at reducing litter around the city and in waterways.
While City Council unanimously approved it, he said he wants to be clear he still believes in the proposal’s intent. He hopes a future City Council will be able to bring the idea back up.
“I think it needs more public education, maybe some more council education,” Tower said regarding his motion to withdraw.
Tower, who leaves City Council at the end of the month, originally carried the proposal on behalf of Lynnhaven River Now, an environmental advocacy group. They pointed to research in other communities that had implemented a similar fee that showed a 70 to 80% reduction in bags in their urban streams and waterways.
The fee would have only applied to disposable plastic bags at grocery, drug and convenience stores. 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.
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.
Food Lion and the Virginia Food Industry Association pushed back on the plan. Others called it a regressive tax.
Councilwoman Barbara Henley suggested the city look at different methods to reduce plastic bag litter. Through meetings with businesses, she said progress has already been made and some retailers are looking at getting rid of plastic bags by 2025.
Wegmans, an upscale grocery store in Town Center, has already eliminated single-use plastic bags.
Karen Forget, Executive Director of Lynnhaven River Now, said she was actually okay with Tower’s decision.
“We are supportive from pulling it … we feel the new council should have a chance to weigh in on this issue,” Forget said.