Roanoke’s plastic bag tax is still causing confusion for city shoppers. We have answers to your questions.

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 6:18 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - It’s been more than seven months since Roanoke City Council approved a plastic bag tax.

Now that it’s here, shoppers still have questions.

”So I think the transition has been pretty good. We’re surprised that it’s been pretty well received in the business community and it seems like the citizens in the city, not heard a lot of complaints,” said Nell Boyle, the city’s sustainability and outreach coordinator.

A point of contention that could lead to complaints includes where the tax is being issued and who is issuing it. In Roanoke city, only grocery stores, convenience stores and drug stores are allowed to charge this tax.

“It is completely in a store’s right to charge for a bag. You know that isn’t something we have control over. They just can’t misrepresent that and say it’s for the tax,” said Boyle.

If you’re a Kroger shopper, you might have seen a screen at self checkout asking for the total number of plastic and paper bags you used. The retailer is using the honor system and according to a Kroger spokesperson, paper bags will also incur a 5-cent fee, but only at stores within Roanoke city.

A spokesperson for Roanoke County issued a statement, saying the tax does not apply to county stores.

If paying for a reusable bag is a burden, Boyle says that’s also something the city is working on. 15,000 reusable bags have been ordered.

“We’re having a little bit of a supply chain issue, so those aren’t expected until next week, but those will be available at the libraries and at numerous nonprofits throughout the community,” said Boyle.

Those bags, as well as citywide cleanup efforts, will be paid for using this new money, that will be paid back to the city from retailers monthly.

The total amount expected isn’t known yet; nor is the time frame of when the city could see the profit. For the first two years the tax is in place, retailers will also gain a profit from the tax: 2 cents per bag the first year, and 1 cent per bag the second year.

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