VB postpones vote on plastic bag tax as some council members seek to tackle litter on a ‘wider scale’

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Those hoping for a plastic bag tax will have to wait a little longer to find out if it will come to Virginia Beach.

On Tuesday, the city council voted 7-0 to postpone a vote on the issue until September 6.

Environmental groups, such as Lynnhaven River Now, were lobbying for council members to approve the 5-cent-per-bag fee. They claim that people would reduce the use of plastic bags as a result and this in turn would reduce waste.

However, several board members want to have a broader discussion about waste and bring retailers who would be impacted by the tax to the table.

Councilor Barbara Henley moved the body to postpone a vote on the ordinance which was sponsored by Councilor Guy Tower. To begin with, she said that Tower was sick and was not present. Second, she did not find the order broad enough.

If passed, disposable plastic bags in grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores would be subject to a 5-cent fee starting Jan. 1, 2023.

Under state law, the majority of funds raised by the fee will go to the city and must support environmental cleanup, waste and pollution mitigation, or environmental education efforts. The city could use the funds to provide reusable bags to recipients of SNAP or WIC benefits.

The fee would not be imposed on bags of meat and produce in grocery stores. It also wouldn’t impact farmers’ markets, restaurants and department stores.

“We’re not really addressing a very broad question. For me, it really comes down to litter,” Henley said. “There are a lot of different items in the litter box that are problematic.”

Henley said Food Lion, which opposed the tax, and the Virginia Food Industry Association want to participate in discussions about what can be done to reduce waste.

Henley also mentioned that the city needs to review its recycling program, referring to the The City of Chesapeake’s Recent Decision to End Curbside Recycling.

The city council vote directs the city manager to return with a report on what some retailers are already doing to reduce waste and what the city is currently doing to reduce waste.

“I believe this is an opportunity for us to have instead of division, to have unity on a way to approach this issue in a positive way,” Henley said. “I think that’s something everyone wants. They want a clean Virginia Beach.

Bryce K. Locke