This past weekend, the Prince George’s delegation to the Maryland House of Delegates held a hearing on a bill proposed by Senator Paul Pinsky and Delegate Barbara Frush that would give Prince George’s County the authority to impose a fee on disposable bags–you know the free ones that you get as a matter of course in the grocery store that end up in the trash, recycling, floating around on the streets or swirling in the Anacostia, Potomac and Chesapeake Bay, eaten by fish and birds. 100 billion of these bags are thrown away in the United States every year. And for Prince George’s County, clean-up costs about $2.5 million annually.
This bill is common sense, and it has also been tested to great effect by the county’s Anacostia neighbor, Washington DC. DC passed their bag bill and within a year the city saw a massive reduction in the use of plastic bags–from 22.5 million bags to 3 million. I have spoken with numerous folks who do cleanup on the Anacostia in DC, and all have said the difference for the river is astounding. It’s estimated that 50% of the trash in our streams is plastic bags, and since DC’s bag bill was passed, clean-up efforts have been picking up 66% fewer bags.
Opponents of the bill call it a tax, but taxes are required fees. The bag bill fee can be avoided entirely simply by bringing your own bags to the grocery store. In fact, to ensure that the bill did not impose difficulty on the poor, DC distributed free canvas bags to those that needed them.
The DC bag bill not only means 80% fewer bags are entering the watershed, it also raises badly needed revenue for river restoration efforts. Prince George’s county needs this bill, we need a clean Anacostia, for the health, quality of life and economic development of the watershed, and because the residents of the watershed–from bald eagle to beaver to bicycle rider–deserve better.
If you’d like to help in this effort–call your state delegate, state senator, and county councilmember, and voice your support for PG 402-12, and for the restoration of the river.