Review: MCPS Bag Tax


The new MCPS Bag Tax is to take place Jan. 1, placing a 5 cent bag tax on bags such as this one above. –Photo by Tyler Brown

Reusable bags such as the one above allows customers to avoid the new MCPS Bag Tax that will begin Jan. 1. --Graphic by Tyler Brown

The Montgomery County Council approved a 5-cent bag tax that will go into effect Jan. 1, a move environmentalists hope will revive a stalled effort to pass a similar tax statewide.

Montgomery politicians were inspired in part by the District’s bag tax, but they took the idea further by including nearly all retail establishments, not just those that sell food. The tax will apply to paper and plastic bags at thousands of merchants. Among the few exceptions are paper bags from restaurants and pharmacy bags holding prescription drugs.

Officials say the tax will raise about $1 million a year, some of which will fund free reusable bags for the poor and elderly. The money will also help fund cleanups of streams and rivers, although backers expect bag use a�� and tax receipts a�� to drop quickly.

“I consider this to be a nudge, not a nuisance. This nudge has profound effects on our consciousness,” said council member Roger Berliner who cast one of the eight votes for the measure.

Reducing the number of plastic bags that end up clogging waterways is the principal aim of the new tax. By taxing paper bags as well, officials are trying to keep shoppers from simply choosing paper instead.

Green club member Brain Phipps said “this new bag tax rule is great and people need to become more aware about this new law that is being put in place.” An issue about this new bag tax law is that not many people are aware about this law and will cause people to be paying the 5-cent bag tax.

Although there are a few instances where the bag tax may not apply. In self-checkout lanes, customers will be on the honor system to report and pay for the number of bags they use. So if customers choose NOT to use the provided bags in the self-checkout lanes, they will not have to pay.

The tax also won’t apply to plastic bags used in the produce section of grocery stores. Newspaper bags will also be exempt. Lastly, it won’t apply to pharmacy bags for carrying prescription drugs.