Three of the largest jurisdictions in Northern Virginia have banded together to adopt a 5-cent plastic bag tax, aimed at cutting down on pollution in local waterways. Arlington and Alexandria lawmakers voted unanimously to adopt the bag tax, while Fairfax voted 9 to 1 in favor. “It’s really an emotional moment for me,” said Arlington County Board Member Takis Karantoni. He recounted that one of his first acts of civic engagement after moving to Arlington was a cleanup at Four Mile Run. “We got what we expected — bags full of plastic. A lot of it.”
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson jokingly lamented that Arlington and Fairfax voted on the policy first. “Unfortunately, we are the third in the region to adopt it, by a matter of hours,” Wilson said during the city council meeting on Saturday. “Next time we should call a special meeting so we can get it done first.”
Wilson said that local leaders had been discussing a bag tax for years. However, jurisdictions in Virginia didn’t have the authority to levy bag taxes. That changed last year, when the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation allowing counties and cities to tax disposable plastic bags. However, paper bags were not included in the legislation, though many people argue paper bags should also be discouraged, as they have their own environmental impacts.