Roanoke collects $209,000 from plastic bag tax in 2023, use of plastic bags down from previous year

ROANOKE, Va. – Some Roanoke shoppers are paying extra at the grocery store because of the city’s plastic bag tax.

The tax went into effect at the start of 2022. Since then, every bag purchased at a grocery store, drug store or convenience stores costs five-cents.

In 2022, the city collected $182,000 from the plastic bag tax. In 2023, $209,000 was collected.

Although the amount in revenue went up from year to year, it’s actually because the amount taken from the five-cent tax went up.

In 2022, the city collected three out of the five cents from the tax. The other two cents went to the stores.

In 2023, the amount changed. The city started collecting four out of the five cents from the tax.

The number of plastic bags used from year to year actually went down.

In 2022, approximately six million bags were purchased and in 2023, that number went down to 5.25 million bags.

“I would much prefer people bring their own bags when they shop. The reason is our plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, that’s it. Then they either get thrown away, lying on the ground being picked up by the breeze, or maybe even getting into the ocean,” said Roanoke’s Sustainability Coordinator, Leigh Anne Weitzenfeld.

The money collected from the tax has to be put to use in a specific way, according to Virginia law.

“We can use it for environmental cleanup. We can use it for programs to mitigate pollution and litter and it can be used to purchase reusable bags for SNAP and WIC recipients,” said Weitzenfeld.

Since the start of the bag tax, over 17,000 free, reusable bags have been given out to people on SNAP and WIC.

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