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Fredericksburg considers tax on plastic shopping bags
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Fredericksburg considers tax on plastic shopping bags

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FREDERICKSBURG — When the Virginia General Assembly approved a bill in January 2020 that allowed jurisdictions to impose a 5-cent tax on disposable plastic bags, Fredericksburg City Council member Kerry Devine was eager to bring the measure to the city. But COVID-19 put a halt to that idea.

Now that normalcy is being restored, Devine introduced the idea to the City Council on Tuesday.

Fredericksburg officials directed City Attorney Kathleen Dooley and her staff to look into the possibility and return with a proposed ordinance in July.

No one on the City Council spoke against Devine’s proposal, which she believes will reduce litter in Fredericksburg.

“The issue of plastic is such a huge problem in this country,” council member Tim Duffy said. “Less than 10% of all the plastic ever created is recycled. … It’s clear that we’re not going to recycle our way out of this problem. We have to reduce our way out of this problem.”

Devine said that if the ordinance is approved, 3 cents of the tax would go to city government, and 2 cents would go to the retailer until 2023. After 2023, the retailer would get 1 penny of the tax.

Devine said the goal is to encourage the use of reusable bags, paper bags or no bags at all when customers pick up groceries or food orders.

The tax would not apply to produce bags, meat bags, trash bags or other bags purchased in bulk. But Devine encouraged city residents to “steer clear” of plastic used for produce and meat, as well, adding

that her desire is that no taxes will be collected.

She hopes everyone will get in the habit of using paper bags or reusable bags.She said any taxes collected would go toward environmental education or purchasing reusable bags for residents who receive government assistance.

Assistant City Attorney Dori Martin recently attended a webinar on the issue. Dooley said her staff is waiting on guidelines from the Virginia Department of Taxation that are expected later this month.

The Roanoke City Council passed a plastic bag tax last month. It is the first Virginia city to do so.

Taft Coghill Jr: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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