VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Environmental groups hope that in the coming months you’ll have to pay a fee for shopping in plastic bags in Virginia Beach.
Lynnhaven River Now leads the coalition that on Tuesday proposed to the Virginia Beach City Council to implement a 5-cent per disposable plastic bag fee at grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores.
The goal is to discourage the use of plastic bags while better funding the cleanup of plastic bags that still end up on beaches, waterways and city parks.
If the city council passes the proposal, it will be the first Hampton Roads location to do so since the Virginia General Assembly authorized the new fee in 2020.
“We wanted to take action in 2020,” said Karen Forget, executive director of Lynnhaven River Now. “In the time of COVID-19, we didn’t think it was fair for retailers, but now we think it’s time.”
Forget that single-use plastic bags are among the most common items in Virginia Beach and around the state. She said they were threatening the health of the ecosystem and creating horrors.
For those worried about extra charges in times of inflation, she said consumers are already paying the price of plastic bags in their purchases. She also adds that taxpayers are usually the ones who pay for the cleanup.
Under state law, the majority of funds raised by the fee will go to the city and must support environmental cleanup, waste and pollution mitigation, or environmental education efforts. The city could use the funds to provide reusable bags to recipients of SNAP or WIC benefits.
The fee would not be imposed on bags of meat and produce in grocery stores. It also wouldn’t affect farmers’ markets, restaurants, and department stores.
Jim Deppe, who leads Lynnhaven River Now Advocacy efforts, said results have already been seen across the state in other communities. Roanoke, Fairfax County, Alexandria, Arlington, Loudoun County, Fredericksburg, Falls Church and Albemarle County have all implemented the fees.
“In Fairfax County, so far, they have two-quarters of the data…they’ve seen a 70-80% reduction in bags in their urban streams. Which is significant,” Deppe said.
Councilor Guy Tower plans to sponsor the resolution to implement the fee in the coming months.
No other board members commented on the proposal.