• For more information on Green Party membership or to contact Green Party leadership, email info@greensofarlington.org Join the Arlington Greens on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at 7:30 pm at the Community Room of the Arlington County Fire Station 2 Ballston, 4805 Wilson Blvd Arlington, VA 22203

March 5, 2018

Ban plastic bags in Arlington

The evidence is overwhelming the environmental damage plastic bags do, and about two dozen countries, including developing countries like Kenya, and the entire state of California have banned them entirely. Consumers can readily shift to reusable grocery and shopping bags, and our streams, rivers and oceans are much cleaner. About 60 cities impose bag taxes, like Washington, D.C., but the best policy is to simply stop selling and producing a product that cannot degrade naturally nor be recycled easily. See Joseph Curtin, “Let’s Bag Plastic Bags,” the New York Times, March 4, 2018. Arlington County now refuses to accept plastic bags in recycling, and the amount recycled in the U.S. is negligible.

About 3 years ago, Arlington Greens asked the Arlington County Board to ban free plastic bags in commercial stores and restaurants. The Arlington Board refused to ban these bags from commercial establishments in Arlington, citing its fear that this ban would violate Virginia law. Greens however had written instructions from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality that a county ban is in fact legal under Virginia law. At least one major Arlington food retailer, Whole Foods, supported this ban as it has not distributed plastic bags in about a decade.

Every year the Arlington County Government asks for community volunteers to get out and help pull out waste from our streams and parks. This is real hypocrisy given that it is far more effective to prevent litter than clean it up futilely each year. Plastic bags–followed by Styrofoam containers–are one of the leading wastes found in our streams, parks and green space. It is far far better to simply ban their use in Arlington, than each year go out and try to pull out bags from rocks, and branches; most of the bags end up in the Potomac River and our oceans. Degraded plastic bag pieces or microplastics end up in our drinking water, and poisoning our fish, whales, turtles and sea birds.

Arlington County is small but since the average American consumer uses 500 plastic bags a year, we collectively generate about 110 million single-use plastic bags a year. We in Arlington should be leading the way in Virginia towards a sustainable future that has no place for killer plastic bags.