Implementing a Bag Fee Program

Montgomery County’s 5-cent fee on plastic and paper shopping bags takes effect on January 1, 2012, but there is much advance work required to ensure success.

Through an outreach campaign called “Fight Litter, Bring Your Own Bag,” the county is already taking steps to educate residents and retailers of the law’s requirements, and to assist low-income and senior citizens by distributing free reusable bags. The county plans to distribute 75,000 free reusable bags before January, through county departments and agencies, as well as community partnerships serving lower-income households.

The county will be meeting with large retailers and industry representatives to educate businesses about the law, and will provide decals, signs, and posters for display in shop windows and at cash registers to help retail staff and the public. Unlike the similar existing bag program in Washington, DC, Montgomery County’s bag fee will be charged at all retailers. (DC’s fee only applies at stores that have a food license.)

Finally, the county is creating a database to track the law’s effectiveness, to demonstrate the change in the number of bags used and those found in the litter stream.

Revenues from the fee will support the Water Quality Improvement Fund, which supports stormwater projects and watershed protection.

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