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Roanoke kicks off the new year with a new plastic bag tax

Single-use plastic bags like these are going to be phased out by Kroger supermarkets.
Single-use plastic bags like these are going to be phased out by Kroger supermarkets.

Beginning tomorrow, Roanoke will join a handful of localities across the state in being the first to establish a plastic bag tax.

While the tax is well… a tax, the goal is to get shoppers off of plastic bags.

Nell Boyle is Roanoke’s sustainability and outreach coordinator.

“We’ve recognized this problem from an environmental standpoint for a long time," Boyle says. "It causes a lot of litter, a lot of pollution in our streets and our parks. And also in our waterways.”

The five cent tax applies to grocery, convenience and drug stores, but only for plastic bags at the checkout counter – not produce or trash bags.

The city can use the new revenue in a number of ways.

“Environmental cleanup, litter prevention," she explains. "We can use it for bags for SNAP and for WIC. And we can also use it for education for the community on litter and litter prevention.”

Boyle urges residents to use reusable bags and she says the city is hopeful no one ends up paying the new tax.

State lawmakers recently gave localities the power to implement taxes on single-use plastic bags. Roanoke, Alexandria, Fredericksburg and Fairfax and Arlington Counties are the first localities to do so.