Discover Bethesda, Maryland...365 Days a Year!

Day 17: BYOB Bethesda – Bring Your Own Bag…or Pay the Tax!

Buy One Get One Free Bags at Giant

This evening, after a nice long, relaxing walk on the Capital Crescent Trail in nearly 60 degree weather, I went to GIANT® Food Stores on Westbard.  My mouth was watering thinking about eating dinner after that nice long walk – never a good time to go shopping!

I pulled into the parking lot and grabbed my reusable grocery bags.  I have been trying to use them faithfully for months.  As I started walking towards the door to the store, I noticed that the crowded parking lot was filled with all kinds of people carrying in and out reusable grocery bags.  It made me smile as it dawned on me that the new 5 cent bag tax that went into effect on January 1st had truly made its impact on a critical mass!

Montgomery County Bag Tax

I saw one man in his nicely tailored suit (probably a lawyer – everyone in Bethesda is a lawyer) exit his car with one solitary bag in hand that he neatly folded as he walked toward the store.  I thought to myself, “5 cents means that much to you, huh?”  I wondered whether he used to carry in that bag before the tax came into effect or is he responding like so many others to the fact that a tax – even 5 cents – will be avoided at all costs!

As I walked through the store aisles I realized that almost without fail the shoppers had their bags in hand – some were nice canvas ones; others were paper shopping bags from department stores; still others were your garden-variety grocery store bags.  The age of the shopper didn’t seem to matter either – I saw a teenage boy carrying one.

The bag tax in Montgomery County came into effect on January 1, 2012 with the primary goal of reducing pollution in local streams and stormwater.  Apparently the plastic bags are one of the most common items to litter our local waterways. In addition to reducing pollution by encouraging the use of reusable bags, the County will also raise funds from the 5 cent tax towards a water quality protection fund.  They expect to raise roughly $1.5 million dollars in the first year.  I guess 5 cents adds up!

Apparently, Bethesda residents agree that the tax adds up as they carry bags with them everywhere they go.  As a self-professed “Greenie” I am very happy to see this new habit developing in our town.  However, even I was caught off guard at subway®  restaurant recently when I was asked whether I wanted a bag or wanted to pay 5 cents for one.  My knee-jerk reaction was, “What?  I can’t just have a bag here anymore?”  But then the Greenie in me kicked in and I just decided to carry my sandwich in its wrap and try not to drop the napkin.  We are not just talking about grocery store bags folks.  Any carry out bag – department store, grocery store, sandwich shop, etc. is included.  According to a January 2nd article in The Huffington Post “It does not, however, apply to bags for prescription drugs, newspapers, garbage, pet waste, yard waste, restaurant leftovers and good[s] purchased at farmers markets.” 

You know what’s next don’t you?  These bags will become a fashion statement and people will be paying big bucks for GUCCI® and Coach™ grocery bags.  It’s only a matter of time!  You know you want one!     ~Amy

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