What Is a Bag Fee?

Members of the alliance are hoping to see legislation passed next year that would create a fee on single-use plastic and paper shopping bags. But what is it?

The legislation puts a new focus on reducing the amount of trash that enters Maryland’s waterways and bolsters a fund dedicated to the cleanup and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The legislation represents a unique attempt to work with business and environmental leaders to develop a shared strategy to reduce the amount of trash in the Chesapeake Bay and coastal waterways.

How the Initiative Works

  • The legislation will place a small 5-cent fee on all single-use plastic and paper carryout bags from stores that sell food (which includes grocery stores, food vendors, convenience stores, drug stores, and others) and liquor stores.
  • The legislation requires that these plastic and paper carryout bags be recyclable.

Community Education and Outreach

  • The legislation delays implementation for 6 months to a year, requiring the state to conduct an intensive public information campaign and outreach that includes providing reusable carryout bags to residents for free, and work with service providers to distribute multiple free reusable bags to seniors and low-income households.

How the Fee Would Be Used

  • The 5-cent fee will be divided between the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the business.
  • The bulk of the fee will be deposited into the Trust to target environmental cleanup, reclamation, and restoration efforts on the Chesapeake Bay and other impaired waterways, as well as continue a public education campaign and provide free reusable bags to Maryland residents, in particular to elderly and low-income residents.
  • Businesses will retain either 1 or 2 cents of the fee, depending whether they offer customers a carryout bag credit program for reusable bags.

Where Has This Been Tried Before

  • Other cities are moving in this direction. In Washington, DC, after just one month of a similar fee, demand for plastic bags dropped as much as 80%. Cities and countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa also have this type of program. These initiatives have dramatically cut down on these single-use bags – by as much as 90% in some places. Volunteers in DC report a significant drop in bags collected at recent river cleanup events.
  • In addition, many businesses are already taking similar steps on their own in addition to selling low-cost durable, reusable bags. Discount food stores like ALDI and Save-A-Lot, and even IKEA, charge customers a nominal fee for every bag – greatly reducing the number of plastic and paper bags used and encouraging customers to bring reusable bags.

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