As the 25th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup wraps up, we reflect back on the last couple of months of citizen action against litter. 14,238 volunteers at 616 sites, removed 574,000 lbs of trash including 193,800 beverage containers and 27,200 plastic bags from our Watershed in April. I attended several cleanup sites in Virginia this year, excited to check out places in my Watershed that I had not been to before. As I was sorting my beverage containers and collecting candy bar wrappers, I was also paying close attention to the plastic bags.
You see, over on the Maryland side of the river we have a five-cent disposable bag fee in Montgomery County that works to tackle one of our common sources of litter -- single use plastic bags. However, County Council Members have proposed an amendment to this policy that would exempt restaurants and all businesses where food is less than 2% of the gross sales. This proposed amendment to the bag fee policy will be difficult to enforce and has the potential to exempt some critical businesses. As I was tracking the plastic bags in Virginia, I found, just as I suspected, that all types of plastic bags are littered -- department stores, electronics store, hardware store, and boutiques. We must prevent this amendment from moving forward so we do not reverse the County’s efforts to end litter.
The hearing on this amendment is June 18. I urge you to please send letters and make phone calls to Council Members as well as send out Action Alerts to your friends, family, members, and volunteers. Every voice will be needed to prevent the amendment from passing. If you have any photos of littered plastic bags where you can clearly see the name of the business -- please send to email@example.com. Focus on stores that might be exempt with the amendment such as hardware stores, gas stations, department stores, and dollar stores.
To help you craft your message to Council Members here are a few talking points:
- Thank you for passing the bag fee legislation, ensuring that Montgomery County continues to lead the way for environmental change.
- The bag fee has been very helpful in reminding me to bring reusable bags to all the stores that I shop in, including department stores (hardware store, boutiques, etc).
- Even when I forget my bag and I choose to buy one, I don’t mind because I know that the money will go to support environmental projects.
- Many of the department stores I shop in even sell reusable bags, showing that they support their customers changing their behavior and using less disposable bags.
- I’m also thrilled to see my friends and neighbors refusing the unnecessary disposable bags at the store. (This is a great place to share personal anecdotes from your shopping experiences)
- And the intent of the legislation, to reduce litter, has been successful. We are seeing less plastic bags in our communities and waterways.
- by Laura Chamberlin, Alice Ferguson Foundation
Cross-posted from AFF's blog