With taxes on single-use plastic bags now in effect across much of Northern Virginia, one local environmental organization is laying the groundwork to see how effective they are in preventing bags from ending up polluting local waterways.
On Jan. 17, more than 100 local residents participated in a trash cleanup at Barcroft Park and the surrounding areas of Four Mile Run in Arlington, sponsored by EcoAction Arlington.
The event was part of the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday.
“This year was special because, in addition to the trash cleanup, volunteers tallied the number of plastic bags and plastic bag pieces collected, as well,” EcoAction officials said. “The tally was administered in order to collect baseline data after the recent implementation of Arlington County’s 5-cent plastic bag tax.”
The Arlington County government was among several local jurisdictions that in 2021 implemented a 5-cent-per-bag tax on single-use plastic bags, under authority granted them during the brief Democratic majority in the General Assembly. The measures went into effect Jan. 1.
EcoAction Arlington garnered more than 1,400 signatures on a petition and organized a public-outreach campaign including letter-writing, social media and speaking in front of the County Board, in an effort to secure passage of the measure.
“The new plastic-bag tax is an exciting step forward for Arlington in tackling the issue of plastic pollution,” said Elenor Hodges, executive director of EcoAction Arlington. “Arlington now has the ability to provide an incentive for residents to change their behavior and decrease their use of single-use plastic bags.”
During the 2022 cleanup in Barcroft Park, 102 volunteers picked up 219 plastic bags and plastic bag pieces. Under EcoAction Arlington’s leadership, volunteers will continue to monitor the number of plastic bags collected during future cleanup events, to see if there is a decrease.
EcoAction Arlington is a community-based non-profit organization that for four decades has worked to improve the environment and achieve a clean and sustainable community in Arlington. For information, see the Website at www.ecoactionarlington.org.