Should the Howard County Council Reschedule The Start Of The Plastic Bag Tax Due To COVID-19?

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know where I stood on the Bag Tax / Fee coming to Howard County. This tax/fee on shoppers in this country is scheduled to begin on October 1 of 2020 (per CB64-2019). The question I have now is should the Howard County Council look to delay the implementation of that tax / fee on shoppers during this Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic? Here are some articles I have seen about other areas with bag bans and bag taxes and the some of the things those areas are doing:

Via The Detroit News on May 26, 2020:

Eight states and numerous cities have banned plastic bags altogether, or tacked on fees or taxes as a way to encourage the use of reusable shopping bags.

Worry that reusable bags could carry the coronavirus between homes and grocery stores, however, has led several states to either suspend their plastic bag bans, impose new bans on reusable bags, lift plastic bag fees, and in the District of Columbia, suspend enforcement of its five-cent-per-plastic bag tax.

Via The New York Times on April 24, 2020:

Retailers in California can once again hand out free single-use plastic bags under an executive order announced on Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the latest turn away from reusable bags amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The order permits stores to provide customers with disposable plastic bags for the next 60 days. “It is critical to protect the public health and safety and minimize the risk of Covid-19 exposure for workers engaged in essential activities, such as those handling reusable grocery bags,” it states.

Via USA Today on April 8, 2020:

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has directed all retailers to use single-use bags and prevented them from using reusable bags for now.

Oregon also has suspended its brand-new ban on plastic bags, and cities from Bellingham, Washington, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, have announced a hiatus on their bans.

In San Francisco, one of the first cities in the US to ban the use of plastic bags, the Department of Public Health issued an order preventing businesses from “permitting customers to bring their own bags, mugs or other reusable items from home.”

Via NBC Connecticut on March 26, 2020:

Many grocery stores are telling customers not to bring reusable bags to shop over concerns they could carry coronavirus into the stores.

In response to that, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday that he was lifting the 10-cent tax on single-use plastic bags.

“We’re going to lift that 10-cent tax. It’s contrary to every environmental instinct I’ve got in my core, but I think for now I want to make sure the folks working at A&P feel safe and I want to make sure that, it’s the public health right thing to do right now,” Lamont said.

I took excerpts from the articles but there are links to read the full articles noted above.

Here in Maryland…Montgomery County briefly considered suspending their bag tax but in the end chose the money option. I mean…the bag tax in Montgomery County generates A LOT of money for that county so why give it up.

There is a lot of back and forth about the real risks of the virus on reusable bags. Some say it could be a real issue and others think it is not and that local jurisdictions should push education on cleaning your reusable bags in order to protect you (see this from Montgomery County).

The bag tax here in Howard County is scheduled to start in three and a half months. There is little to no chance the pandemic will be over by that point. Will our Councilmembers decide to move forward with this tax/fee or will they decide to delay it until the pandemic is better under control?

I will be watching and will report out any decisions or comments made on this topic locally.

Scott E

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  1. They shouldn’t impose it at all – it will not significantly change the use of plastic bags but it is really just a revenue generator in disguise.


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