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Should Virginia Impose a Tax on Plastic Bags?

AP Photo / Rich Pedroncelli

Are plastic bags a problem in Virginia? Lawmakers in Richmond are divided.

Plastic bags were first introduced in the US back in 1979. Since that time, they have become a concern for environmentalists, who say they’re clogging landfills and choking the Chesapeake Bay.

That’s why Senator Chap Petersen, a Democrat from Fairfax City, wants to create a new five cent tax for every single use plastic bag.

“More and more states are adopting this. I think ironically, my bill was very aggressive years ago. Now you see states looking to ban plastic bags or ban plastic straws. I’m not looking to ban anything. I’m not big on banning things.”

The United Nations is calling for a global ban on plastic bags. And in 2014, California became the first state to ban them.

“We don’t live in California.”

That’s state Senator Bill Carrico, a Republican from Southwest Virginia.

“There’s a lot of things that other states do that we don’t follow suit, and I think this is one that we should really take a hard look at. If we start doing this it’s going to put an undue burden on people.”

Carrico was one of the 11 Republicans who voted to kill Petersen’s bill in the Senate Finance Committee.

Petersen says he’ll bring the bill back again next year, when Democrats are hopeful they’ll seize control of the state Senate.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.