The recently-passed Virginia budget for fiscal years 2023-2024 includes legislation delaying implementation of state bans on polystyrene for five years. The ban, sponsored by Delegate Betsy Carr (D-Richmond) required large food vendors to stop using the packaging material by July 2023, and all vendors by July 2025. But those deadlines are now July 2028 and July 2030, respectively.
After the ban’s final passage in 2021 under Democratic control, Virginia earned praise for its position from environmental groups. At the time, restaurant lobbyists warned that restaurants needed the containers amid an increase in takeout due to COVID-19. At the same time then-Governor Ralph Northam signed the bill, he also signed a ban on executive branch agencies using single-use plastics, which was reversed this year by Governor Glenn Youngkin.
Five-cent taxes on single-use plastic bags are spreading across Virginia’s more urban localities. On Saturday, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria adopted the local tax ordinances, while Fairfax County adopted a similar ordinance on September 14. The taxes take effect on January 1, 2022.
“Arlington is proud to take this step to reduce plastic bag waste in our community and to do so with our regional partners,” Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said in a press release. “We have long sought the legal authority for this small fee as a way to protect our environment and become a more sustainable community. We look forward to working with residents and neighbors on implementation.”
The Fredericksburg City Council directed city staff to prepare a draft ordinance for a five-cent single-use plastic bag tax. In its Tuesday meeting, most of the city council expressed support for the proposal, introduced by Council Member Kerry Devine.
“The reality is I hope this is a tax we never collect,” Devine told the Council.
The Roanoke City Council is seeking more information and public input before making a decision on a 5-cent single-use plastic bag tax. In a public hearing at Monday evening’s city council meeting, only three speakers spoke, all in favor of the tax. Council members also expressed support for the idea, but worried that the tax would harm businesses and low-income consumers, and might not address the problem of plastic bag pollution.
The Roanoke City Council is considering a five-cent tax on disposable plastic bags, like grocery store or convenience store bags. On Monday, the Council agreed to schedule a public hearing on April 19.
The tax was legalized by the 2020 General Assembly. HB 534, introduced by Delegate Betsy Carr (D-Richmond), and SB 11, introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), authorize localities to enact five-cent taxes on disposable plastic bags and require the localities to use revenue from the tax for environmental cleanup and to provide re-usable bags.
The General Assembly passed a polystyrene (Styrofoam) ban for serving food in restaurants and similar vendors in Virginia. The bill, passed on Wednesday, will first take effect in July 2023 to large vendors with more than 20 locations; in July 2025, it will apply to all vendors, although vendors can apply for temporary exemptions to their localities. Violation can result in a $50 per day fine.
Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) pushed HB 1902 in the Senate as a compromise to allow the House of Delegates to pass a bill adjusting regulation of new recycling technology. Republicans opposed the polystyrene ban, saying it would harm small businesses, but supported Senator Emmet Hanger’s (R-Augusta) advanced recycling regulation bill.