President Obama signed the reconciliation bill into law today. Reform came a little late (we aimed to wrap in 2009) and came up a little short (i bet on the public option being in the final bill and lost), but all in all, we done good.
According to a press release from the office of bag fee champion Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), a report from the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue found that the city took in just shy of $150,000 in bag fees in January, all of which will go toward cleaning up the Anacostia River. That’s not a lot of money for what is a huge and multi-year endeavor, but what is notable is how much the use of plastic bags is reported to have decreased. The report accounts for the purchase of around 3 million plastic bags in January, a huge drop from the average 22.5 million bags District residents were estimated to have used per month prior to the fee’s implementation.
On its face, you could then claim that the five-cent fee pushed District residents to use 19 million fewer plastic bags in a single month. But keep in mind, this is just the first month of results, when there were certainly scofflaws who didn’t charge for bags. Still, if the math is even half right, that’s a massive change in consumer behavior — one spurred by nothing more than a nickel.
Coincidentally, I thought about this yesterday as I watched a woman walk across the street with her canvas grocery bag. I wondered if the bag tax was working, and if so, does it mean DCers are particularly eco-friendly or just extraordinarily cheap?