Roanoke is preparing to possibly tax disposable plastic shopping bags.
According to a proposal coming up for public debate, the tax would generate a nickel for each bag that grocers, convenience stores and other retailers provide to consumers. If approved, Roanoke’s proposed tax would take effect Jan. 1, according to current plans.
Single-use bags made from chemicals contribute to the global threat of plastic pollution and have been targeted with taxes and bans in a number of other localities and states.
Virginia’s General Assembly granted localities permission to impose a bag tax. That body set the rules, which include that retailers would receive a portion of the tax revenue to collect the charge. Funds generated by the tax would pay for environmental cleanup, environmental education and the provision of reusable shopping bags to women who participate in nutrition-assistance programs.
Roanoke’s leadership has been discussing bag taxation but this week set the process in motion. The Roanoke City Council on Monday scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. April 19.
The tax would not apply to plastic bags provided to carry unpackaged vegetables, bulk items such as nuts or oatmeal, packaged meat or ice cream.
Roanoke-area shoppers currently receive free plastic shopping bags at checkout at most retailers. Used bags float in the air along streets, catch in vegetation near streams and rivers and collect in kitchens.
Retail giants are already moving against single-use bags and are promoting the use of reusable bags instead, although reusable bags were banned for sanitation reasons during the pandemic in some locations.
Kroger, which receives used plastic bags for recycling, said it intends to phase them out by 2025. At Walmart, a shareholder advocacy group called As You Sow has complained of what it called a lack of action against bags at the mega-retailer.