City of Roanoke collects $182k during first year of plastic bag tax

According to data, over six million plastic bags were sold in 2022

ROANOKE, Va. – Most people who shop at stores in the City of Roanoke said they’re gotten used to the five-cent plastic bag tax.

The tax went into effect in January 2022. Some shoppers aren’t worried about it.

“It does cross my mind but then I’m just like, ‘Oh, it’s five cents,’” said shopper, Emma Ferris.

“I like the convenience of a plastic bag,” said another shopper, Jerry Hickey.

Over the first year of collecting the tax, the city collected over $180,000, which equals about six million bags purchased.

“Hopefully that will go down,” said Roanoke’s sustainability outreach coordinator, Leigh Anne Weitzenfeld.

During the year 2022, for every five cents made off a plastic bag, the city received three cents and the stores got two cents back per bag.

This year, for every five cents spent on the tax, the city will receive four cents and the stores will get one cent.

The city can only spend this earned tax revenue on certain things.

“There are three things we can spend it on, environmental cleanup, environmental programs, education, outreach, engagement. And then buying reusable bags for our SNAP and WIC recipients,” said Weitzenfeld.

Although the tax brings in revenue for the city, officials said the goal of the plastic bag tax was never to make a profit.

“We’re making a decision. Whether we are taking our bags or not, humanity is paying a price for that convenience,” said Weitzenfeld.

The hope is to change people’s behaviors, for the sake of the city’s health and your own.

“It’s getting to a point where we need to pay attention and we need to alter our behavior to protect our own health, to protect our families,” she said.

Weitzenfeld said she and her team are in the process of making a budget for how to spend the money.

That budget will then be presented to the city council for approval, which they hope to do in the Spring.

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