Tax would drastically cut plastic bag use, D.C. CFO says

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Local,Michael Neibauer

Adding a 5-cent tax to the disposable bags used by most D.C. retailers will reduce the use of those river-clogging agents by 80 percent within four years, the District’s chief financial officer details in new projections.

In his fiscal impact statement on the Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act, CFO Natwar Gandhi estimates the proposed tax would generate $3.6 million in revenue during fiscal 2010, which starts Oct. 1, and $9.5 million total between 2010 and 2013. One cent of the tax would go to retailers and the other 4 cents to the District. That money would be dedicated to Anacostia cleanup.

But perhaps more importantly, Gandhi projects that the tax would accomplish what its proponents hope it will: slash the number of disposable bags leaving grocery, drug, convenience and liquor stores. The Anacostia is the ultimate depository for 20,000 tons of garbage a year, said Ward 6 D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells, author of the bag tax legislation.

Three-quarters of the estimated 360 million bags consumed in the District annually are used by consumers of the four types of retailers targeted in the bill, Gandhi said, using data collected in Seattle, which he described as “similar sized” city.

Within the first year of the tax, Gandhi said, the city would see a 50 percent reduction in the number of disposable bags used, or a 135 million bag cut. By 2011, the reduction jumps to 60 percent, 70 percent by 2012 and 80 percent by 2013. All told, Gandhi wrote, the

District would reduce the number of disposable bags used by 270 million over the next four years.

The bag tax bill appears likely to become law, as a pair of council committees Thursday unanimously moved it to the full body for consideration.

The measure was amended to exempt paper bags used by restaurants.

mneibauer@washingtonexaminer.com

BY THE NUMBERS
Projected bag tax for the Anacostia Cleanup Fund:
» 2010: $3.55 million
» 2011: $3 million
» 2012: $1.98 million
» 2013: $947,032

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