District Businesses Not Harmed by Bag Tax

February 24, 2011  |  

(Washington Post) — While shoppers have drastically cut their reliance on bags at District stores since a controversial tax was enacted last year, business owners have reported little harm to their bottom line and in some cases saved money because they are buying fewer bags, according to a survey released Wednesday by an environmental group.  The D.C. tax charges shoppers 5 cents per bag, revenue the city has earmarked to clean up the polluted Anacostia River. City officials have said bag use decreased from about 270 million in 2009 to about 55 million last year – a reduction of 80 percent. The city earned about $2 million from the tax, less than the $3.5 million that had been projected.

In a survey of 600 randomly chosen D.C. residents commissioned by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, 75 percent said they are using fewer bags since the tax was enacted, while 21 percent said they have not changed their habits. An additional survey of 51 business owners found that 58 percent said they had seen no changes to their business, while 20 percent reported positive effects from the tax, including less litter around the store and savings on the number of bags they purchased to serve customers.  Twelve percent of the business owners reported negative effects from the tax, although the report does not detail what they were.

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