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Roanoke City Council approves 5-cent plastic bag tax

ROANOKE, VA. – Shoppers in the Star City will be paying more if they want to use plastic bags.

Starting next year, people will pay 5 cents per bag at local retailers.

Roanoke City Council said this is the progress it wants to be known for.

On Monday night, members unanimously passed a tax on single-use plastic bags after finally getting state permission to do so.

“We had this on our legislative request list for two or three years before they finally approved it and they stopped laughing at us when all the jurisdictions up in Northern Virginia decided it wasn’t such a bad idea,” councilman Bill Bestpitch said.

Council was ready to approve it last month, but paused, concerned about how it would affect low-income residents.

They met with grocery and convenience stores to hammer out the plan.

“And so they shared some of the same concerns that were raised previously, but they also highlighted ultimately their support of an effort to actually rid the community of the plastic bags,” city manager Bob Cowell said.

Five cents will be assessed per plastic bag used at grocery, drug and convenience stores within city limits.

The proceeds from the tax will be put toward reusable bags for low-income shoppers and environmental education.

“Based on the two public hearings that we had most of the citizens that I’ve spoken with and I’ve heard from are all in favor of the tax,” Vice Mayor Trish White-Boyd said.

City leaders said they hope the tax makes no money. Rather they hope people stop using plastic bags and help keep the city clean.

“This is not going to solve the whole problem, but it is one step in the right direction, it’s a step for Roanoke to take the lead once again as we have on so many issues,” Bestpitch said.

The city will form an implementation team to help get customers and retailers ready.

Some local businesses have also offered to sponsor reusable bags to be handed out to low-income shoppers.

Gayle Gordon

As a college student, making an extra buck now and then was very important. I started as a part-time reporter since I was 19 yo, and I couldn’t believe it might become a long-time career. I'm happy to be part of the Virginian Tribune's team.

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