2020 | Coronavirus

Plan to suspend Montgomery County’s bag tax withdrawn

Health officer urges customers to wash, pack their own reusable bags

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After Montgomery County Council Member Will Jawando proposed suspending the county’s carryout bag tax during the pandemic, he changed course this week. He plans to withdraw the bill Wednesday.

The 5-cent tax is paid on every paper and plastic bag that shoppers use at grocery and retail stores.

Jawando initially wanted to suspend the bag tax out of concerns people, particularly grocery clerks, might have, about reusable bags brought into a store and whether they are hygienic.

However, a County Council press release on Wednesday evening says Jawando will withdraw the bill to suspend the bag tax. The press release says “alternative ways” were identified for employees and customers to shop safely in grocery and retail stores.

The bill was scheduled for a vote at the council’s meeting on Thursday.

Following the recommendations of Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, people should wash reusable bags between use and pack their own reusable bags at check out. He also recommended that stores frequently clean the surfaces in the baggage areas.

The revenue from the bag tax goes into the county’s Water Quality Protection Charge fund, which is used to pay for litter cleanup. The council approved the tax was in May 2011.

Jawando consulted with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the Sierra Club, and others before making the decision to withdraw the suspension bill.

“I am glad we have come to a solution related to reusable bags in public retail settings,” Jawando said in the press release. “I am a strong believer in the importance of making more ecologically sustainable choices and am a firm believer in the value of reusable bags.”

Amy Maron, the zero waste leader of the Sierra Club, said in the release that grocery store workers are on the front lines of the emergency and should be protected.

“Calling on customers to bag their own items reduces contact with store workers while preserving the bag fee, an important tool in efforts to reduce plastic pollution,” she said.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.


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