By Alex Bobeczko, EcoAction Arlington Summer Intern
In April of 2020, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed Senate Bill 11, a piece of legislation which authorizes cities and counties to impose a five cent tax on disposable plastic bags across the state. In doing so, Northam has signaled his commitment to environmental conservation, and to alleviating the stresses that single-use plastic pollution has on the state of Virginia. Presently, over 471 local ordinances across 28 states have been passed that regulate, tax, or ban the distribution of plastic bags. Through SB11, Arlington County has the opportunity to take an important step forward and join this growing list of environmentally-conscious constituencies.
Every year, Americans use nearly 100 billion plastic bags. The vast majority of these bags (almost 99% according to BiologicalDiversity.org) do not get recycled properly, and end up in landfills or in natural environments. This presents harm to a plethora of wildlife, as many animals mistake plastic bags as a food source. Over the course of its 1000 year lifetime, a plastic bag breaks down into small particles called microplastics, which humans are now being exposed to through air, drinking water, and seafood. In fact, a study from 2019 estimates the average human consumes between 39,000 and 52,000 microplastic particles over the course of a year.
At EcoAction Arlington, we are committed to reducing our impact on the planet through the education and betterment of our community. This year, we have launched a Plastic Bag Educational Campaign to raise awareness about the impacts of plastics on our waterways and take a stand against single-use plastics in our Arlington community.
The main component of this campaign is our Plastic Bag Tax Petition. Please sign our petition and join EcoAction Arlington in urging the Arlington County Board to implement a five cent tax on disposable plastic bags. For more information on why we think this tax is necessary, as well as background related to the tax, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.
I’ve been fortunate enough to call Arlington County my home for the last 21 years, and growing up in the area I’ve always had a deep appreciation for our parks, trails, and other green spaces. It is a personal goal of mine to ensure that our parks and green spaces are preserved for future generations to enjoy. Everyone has a right to a plastic- and pollution-free environment.
Alex Bobeczko is the EcoAction Arlington summer intern. He is a rising senior at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Anthropology.