UVA Sustainability is working with the Sierra Club and the community to collect reusable bags for low-income individuals to help defer the cost of a new plastic bag tax in Charlottesville and Albemarle County that aims to reduce plastic waste. 

By Julianne Feuchter, 3rd-year

Charlottesville and Albemarle County have placed a 5¢ tax on plastic bags starting January 1. While this is a huge win for sustainability, it does create some concerns in terms of equity. The new tax could disproportionately negatively impact low-income individuals. Charlottesville already has extreme wealth inequality, so it is important to ensure that this tax will not exacerbate this pre-existing issue. 

 

Furthermore, it is extremely important to ensure that this tax will not have adverse effects and be removed because it is a necessary step in Charlottesville’s transition to a more sustainable future. Even though single-use plastic bags are only used for an average of 15 minutes, they continue to pollute the earth for hundreds and hundreds of years. Plastic bags make their way into the natural environment, endangering land and sea animals and harming human health. A plastic bag tax has proven to be effective in other jurisdictions, and similar success can be expected in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. According to a study done by the University of Chicago, a plastic bag tax effectively reduces plastic bag usage by changing consumer behavior. Therefore, it is important that we do what we can to support this tax!

 

sea turtle

The Sierra Club has a plan to mitigate negative effects of this tax and is working with the local government and UVA Sustainability to host a reusable bag drive. There will be an ongoing effort throughout the county and city to collect bags that people no longer use and redistribute them to low-income individuals so they do not have to pay for plastic bags in stores or purchase reusables bags, which can be pricey.

While effects of this drive are not specific to UVA because the bags will be distributed throughout the community, the purpose of the drive aligns with UVA’s goals of waste reduction and more specifically, a decrease in single-use plastics. This tax and the drive that supports it are important steps towards reducing our community’s dependance on single-use plastics. Furthermore, the drive works towards UVA’s goal to “partner with our community to accelerate collaborative initiatives to advance sustainable, equitable, and healthy places for all.” 

 

Please support this initiative by bringing your extra reusable bags to the donation box at Clark Hall or Newcomb now through the end of November!

 

Students learning about recycling practices at McIntire Recycling Center.
Students observe UVA Recycling staff disposing of plastic bags.
Julianne Feuchter

Julianne is a 3rd-year student at UVA studying Global Sustainability (B.A.); Political, Philosophy, Policy, and Law (B.A.); and French (minor). She works at UVA’s Office for Sustainability as a member of the Outreach team and is especially interested in environmental law and policy.