MARYLAND

Montgomery County discusses bag tax

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY (WJLA) - Plastic bag pollution is down 29 percent over the last two years along Rock Creek.

That stat comes, advocates say, thanks much in part to the Montgomery County bag tax.

Stores like Mom's Organic Market in Rockville are seeing nearly twice the number of shoppers with re-usable bags compared to 2011.

So why would the Montgomery County Council's environmental committee look to weaken the law?

Because, it says, shopper habits haven't changed outside of grocery stores.

Right now, shoppers pay $0.05 for every bag they need to carry home their goods. The revision would restrict the bag tax to mostly places that sell food.

"I just don't see a person going to their local Chinese take-out and bringing a re-usable bag and saying no put my items in a re-usable bag,” says Council Vice President Craig Rice.

In fact, the owner at the Original Ambrosia Greek restaurant in Rockville has yet to see a re-useable bag at his take-out counter.

Last fiscal year, the county collected 2.4 million in bag taxes, mostly from grocery stores.

"I think the evidence is already clear. You will not change people's behavior when they go into a department store. What you will change is their feeling about government,” says Roger Berliner, Montgomery County Councilman.

But environmentalists say forget public perception. The threat to our ecosystem is real.

"I think the council is under-estimating how many bags from department stores and non-food stores are littered in our streams," says Julie Lawson, director of Trash Free Maryland.

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