Loudoun Supervisors Adopt 5-cent Plastic Bag Tax

This summer, Loudouners will start paying to use plastic bags at the store.

Loudoun County supervisors on Tuesday narrowly approved a 5-cent tax on single-use plastic bags in checkout lines at grocery stores, convenience stores and drugstores, to take effect on July 1.

The tax’s proponents argued the tax is an environmental measure. Opponents argued it may do little for the environment, but put a new burden on taxpayers—especially lower-income people—at a time when many are already strapped for money.

Retailers keep a portion of the tax. By state law, revenues from the plastic bag tax must be used for cleaning the environment, providing education programs designed to reduce environmental waste, mitigating pollution and litter, or providing reusable bags to recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Women, Infants, and Children benefits. County staff members previously said Loudoun’s government would likely use the money to fund community clean-up events and special recycling events.

One business owner, Avis Renshaw, who owns both a farm and Mom’s Apple Pie, said she would like to do away with single-use bags entirely. But she pointed out to supervisors that under the new tax, not only are plastic bags cheaper for a business to buy and use—and paper bags currently unavailable because of supply chain issues—but with a portion of the new tax staying with retailers, businesses will now be reimbursed for buying plastic bags. She urged supervisors to rethink the tax.

“For me, this is a new tax on folks at a very bad time, and I just can’t support it, especially when you’re looking at possibly having to raise our Loudoun County taxes, our real property taxes,” said Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge).

“This is putting a lot of complications on smalls businesses at a very bad time, and in particular at a time when we have unprecedented supply chain problems,” said Supevisors Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). He added: “We went right to the stick here and never tried the carrot. There are a lot of things we could do to encourage recycling of plastic bags, and we haven’t done any of them.”

Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) pointed out that one alternative, paper bags, take more energy and cause more air and water pollution to produce per bag compared to plastic bags. And she said the tax imposes new hardships on lower-income families.

“Working class families who don’t have a readily-available car cannot carry reusable bags in the car the way most of us can, for them to make use of reusable bags, they would have to carry those bags to work with them on any day they plan to shop,” Umstattd said.

“All the arguments I’ve heard up here are, let’s keep it the way it is,” said Supervisor Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn). “That ain’t gonna cut it, because we know keeping it the way it is is doing real damage to our environment.”

“This is the epitome of ‘think globally and act locally.’ We do not need to be losing our collective stuff because Loudoun County is joining I don’t know how many other counties in Virginia implementing a tax, a voluntary tax, that is required to go to environmental issues,” said County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large).”

Vice Chairman Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling), who introduced the proposed new tax, called it a “voluntary tax” and said it would not hurt low-income families.

“If I had my way, I’ll be voting to get rid of all plastic, but until the General Assembly gives us that authority, this is what we’ve got,” Saines said.

Supervisors voted 5-4 in favor of the new tax, with Umstattd, Letourneau, Buffington and Supervisor Caleb E. Kershner (R-Catoctin) opposed.

The county has set up a webpage with more information about the tax, loudoun.gov/plasticbagtax.

19 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors Adopt 5-cent Plastic Bag Tax

  • 2022-01-20 at 4:27 pm

    Another burden on low and middle income families, courtesy of the completely out-of-touch (D) party.

    Happy Regressive Tax Day, Loudoun!

  • 2022-01-20 at 4:48 pm

    I think supervisors who voted for the tax made the right decision. Anything we can do to eradicate plastic pollution is well worth the effort. And I agree with Supervisor Saines that a five-cent tax isn’t going to break anyone’s bank. He also noted the proliferation of plastic bags in Loudoun’s creeks & waterways, which is a point well-taken. Well done supervisors!

  • 2022-01-20 at 5:01 pm

    So, the new Republican Governor pushes to finally eliminate the grocery tax but the Democrats just can’t fathom cutting the people a break on their hyper-inflated grocery bills so they jack the cost back up.

    • 2022-01-20 at 5:32 pm

      All the new GOP governor has done thus far is end up as a late-night punchline.

    • 2022-01-21 at 4:15 am

      This is ridiculous and they want to raise property tax. Enough is enough, stop giving so many tax breaks and stop trying to be like Fairfax.

  • 2022-01-20 at 5:12 pm

    My #1 issue with this tax is that there is no indication what the collected money will be used for. In order to properly impose a tax, the money collect must be used in connection with the purpose of the tax. If the money will be used to hire people to clean the sides of our Loudoun roadway, OK. If the money will be used to better serve separating plastic bags from trash at the landfill so be it. To put the money in a BOS slush fund, no thank you.

    BTW – Does anyone believe that after buying $50+ in groceries I’m not going to spend another $0.25 for the bags to carry it in. The thought of carrying around re-usable bags is simply not something I’m interested.

    Happy More Hands In Your Pockets Day Loudoun County.

  • 2022-01-20 at 5:21 pm

    Koran wants to tax all plastic. Condoms are in play Koran. Bottles for everything. Tampons. Why stop at bags, why not be equitable Koran?

  • 2022-01-20 at 5:25 pm

    Another regressive tax that will hit women and children hardest while only furthering the Kabuki theater of pseudo-environmentalism. Al Gore must be so pleased with himself at this point. I bet he will buy another house on the beach to celebrate the rising sea level.

    I have reusable bags and I am already used to buying bags since I lived abroad for so long. But this will be at best an inconvenience to most and a useless gesture in any case.

  • 2022-01-20 at 5:29 pm

    Overdue. Every time the wind blows I’m picking plastic bags out of my trees. A few years ago I got into the habit of taking my bags to the grocery store. Works great…they hold more, are easier to carry and they don’t add to the landfills (or the trees). This is supervisors imposing a socialist tax on the rest of us…this a government stepping in to say they agree these bags cause problems and we should start trying to find other ways to solve the “get my groceries home” problem. Sure, in the libertarian utopia everyone could throw their plastic bags out the window of their cars when they’re done with them but is that the world you want to live in?

  • 2022-01-20 at 5:58 pm

    I would not have as much issue with this tax if the removed another tax. How many more taxes do the citizens of Loudoun County need? if the BofS wanted to be progressive, why not index the base price of a vehicle on the personal property tax? It has not been indexed in over 20 years!!!

  • 2022-01-20 at 7:16 pm

    There are four exemptions to the tax in the code.
    The first listed is “Durable plastic bags with handles that are specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse and that are at least four mils thick”.
    The second exemption is “Plastic bags that are solely used to wrap, contain, or package ice cream, meat, fish, poultry, produce, unwrapped bulk food items, or perishable food items in order to avoid damage or contamination”. Are you confused?
    I feel sorry for the store personnel who have to implement this law. Who will check if the bag is at least 4 mils?
    I feel sorry for the customer who will have to wait in line while the exemptions are verified. Who will verify?
    The law is poorly written and never should have been passed by the Virginia Legislature.

  • 2022-01-20 at 9:39 pm

    Good. No one NEEDS plastic bags. Recycling just doesn’t work.

  • 2022-01-21 at 10:47 am

    “If I had my way, I’ll be voting to get rid of all plastic, but until the General Assembly gives us that authority, this is what we’ve got,” Saines said.”

    Lead by example Saines. Immediately stop using anything made of plastic. Everything. Put your money where your mouth is. Stop driving your car, stop buying food at the grocery store wrapped in plastic. Avoid medical care, and throw away most of the items in your home, just for starters.

    Do these people ever grasp how ignorant and uneducated they sound?

  • 2022-01-21 at 11:52 am

    “But she pointed out to supervisors that … with a portion of the new tax staying with retailers, businesses will now be reimbursed for buying plastic bags.”

    Do the simpletons on the BoS realize that they just incentivized businesses to use MORE plastic bags because they are being reimbursed for the bags? Previously, they were a cost that hit the bottom line. Now, they are free.

  • 2022-01-21 at 1:34 pm

    Who’s going to sit there at the register and enforce the tax? And who is going to make sure people bagging groceries only use a reasonable amount of bags? Has anyone does grocery shopping at Target or Walmart lately, especially pick up orders? They only put in 1 item per bag, regardless of size. Things like a tube of chap stick, they put in a separate bag for whatever reason. They’ll used 10-15 bags when 3-5 will do. This should have been thought out better.

  • 2022-01-21 at 2:06 pm

    Pathetic, but funny.

    Just a few years ago, these same people praising this regressive tax were crying a storm to same a tree due to the use of PAPER BAGS….

    Keep the plastic bags or use the free plastic bags in the vegetable section for your groceries.

    Happy Free Vegetable Plastic Bag Day Loudoun !!!

  • 2022-01-22 at 7:21 am

    Went to Wegmans in Fairfax yesterday, which already has the tax. They only have paper bags – no plastic and charge $0.05 / paper bag. Wegmans says they put that money into a local charity. When does the County then shift to no paper. What are we supposed to do, bring a wheel barrow? Science is working on the issue, give it a chance to get going. These anti-plastic folks are akin to anti-vaxers cherry picking what their bias’ tells them.


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