On Saturday, June 18, Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection announced new programming to support the county’s 4-year-old disposable bag law.
The law, which took effect in 2012, requires all retailers in the county to charge five cents for each plastic and paper bag distributed at checkout. The charge encourages shoppers to bring reusable bags and reduce the amount of disposable bags that wind up as litter in the county’s neighborhoods and waterways. It’s working: volunteers at stream cleanups are finding 72 percent fewer bags since the law took effect!
To this point, the county has primarily relied on resident complaints about businesses that don’t charge the fee; the businesses then receive a letter educating them about the law. Starting this summer, the county will be more proactive, distributing new point-of-sale cards and posters to remind shoppers to bring their own bags, and identifying retailers that are not complying in order to offer more targeted training. The county is also giving away more free reusable bags to residents who need them.
Surveys in Washington, DC, where a similar law has been in place since 2010, show that business owners view the law very favorably, particularly because of the savings they see by buying fewer disposable bags. Shoppers generally understand that the charge is a reminder to skip disposable bags, and like that the funds are used to prevent pollution in the Anacostia River.