Plastic Bag Tax
Beginning on January 1, 2022, the City of Roanoke will implement a five-cent ($0.05) tax on disposable plastic bags provided to customers in grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores within City limits.
Plastic Bag Tax Information and Overview
Legislation enacted during the Regular Session of the 2020 General Assembly (House Bill 534 (2020 Acts of Assembly, Chapter 1022) and Senate Bill 11 (2020 Acts of Assembly, Chapter 1023)) authorizes any county or city to adopt by ordinance the Virginia Disposable Plastic Bag Tax. The tax will be administered by the Virginia Department of Taxation. View legislation here.
Beginning on January 1, 2022, there will be a five-cent tax on the use of disposable plastic bags provided to customers in grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores in the City of Roanoke. View full guidelines here.
The tax is due regardless of whether the retailer sells the bag to the customer or it is provided free of charge.
Who does this tax affect?
The state’s guidelines on definitions of these retailers are as followed:
- “Grocery store” means an establishment that has an enclosed room in a permanent structure and that sells food and other items intended for human consumption, including a variety of ingredients commonly used in the preparation of meals. This definition does not include food banks, farmers markets, or mobile food units.
- “Drugstore” means an establishment that sells medicines prepared by a licensed pharmacist pursuant to a prescription and other medicines and items for home and general use.
- “Convenience store” means an establishment that (i) has an enclosed room in a permanent structure where stock is displayed and offered for sale and (ii) maintains an inventory of edible items intended for human consumption consisting of a variety of such items of the types normally sold in grocery stores.
- Larger retailers that contain a grocery store, a convenience store, or a drug store are subject to the tax. Such retailers shall collect the tax on all taxable plastic bags provided, regardless of the items sold.
No store will be considered a convenience store solely because it offers a limited selection of snacks and beverages for sale at the point of sale.
What types of bags are excluded from the tax?
- Paper bags
- Durable plastic bags, with handles, that are specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse and at least four mils thick
- Plastic bags that are solely used to wrap, contain, or package ice cream, meat, fish, poultry, produce, unwrapped bulk food items, or perishable food items in order to avoid damage or contamination
- Plastic bags used to carry dry cleaning or prescription drugs
- Multiple plastic bags sold in packages and intended for use as garbage, pet waste, or leaf removal bags
Will I be required to pay the tax if I bring my own bags to shop?
No, you will not need to pay the tax if you bring your own reusable bags. This is strongly encouraged!
Where can I find a reusable bag?
Reusable bags can be found for sale at most large grocery stores, shopping centers, and many places online. Free reusable bags can be found at City of Roanoke libraries listed below while supplies last:
- Roanoke Public Library- 706 S Jefferson St, Roanoke, VA 24016
- Gainsboro Library- 15 Patton Ave NW, Roanoke, VA 24016
- Belmont Library- 1101 Morningside St SE, Roanoke, VA 24013
- Melrose Library- 2502 Melrose Ave NW, Suite D, Roanoke, VA 24017
- Williamson Road Library- 3837 Williamson Rd, Roanoke, VA 24012
What does the disposable bag tax money fund?
The state code stipulates that all revenue collected shall be appropriated for the purposes of:
- Environmental Cleanup
- Providing education programs designed to reduce environmental waste
- Mitigating pollution and litter
- Providing reusable bags to recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) benefits
Why is this tax important?
The goal of this tax is to change consumer behavior from using disposable plastic bags to durable reusable bags. This is important because pollution from plastic bags is extremely harmful to our land and waterways and poses a threat to the health of humans and animals alike. In addition to spoiling our scenic natural environment with litter and pollution, plastic bags contain harmful chemicals and never truly decompose, instead they break down into smaller pieces called microplastics which are released into the environment and consumed by humans and animals through our food and water sources. This tax will help address these problems by drastically reducing the plastic pollution in our streets, streams, and stormwater system, while at the same time increasing revenue for environmental cleanup and education.
How will the tax be administered?
The dealers will receive a small portion of the tax in the form of a tax deduction:
- From January 1, 2022 until January 1, 2023 the stores that collect the tax retain two-cents of the five-cents collected
- After January 1, 2023 the stores that collect the tax retain one-cent of the five-cents collected
The tax will be collected, administered, and enforced by the Virginia Tax Commissioner, in the same manner that the Retail Sales and Use Tax is administered. The dealers shall report the number of disposable plastic bags and amount of tax for each locality to the Virginia Department of Taxation. The return must be filed and the tax paid by the dealer to this department on or before the 20th day of each month for the period ending the previous month.
How do I reach the Virginia Department of Taxation?
- Address: Virginia Department of Taxation, Attention: Disposable Plastic Bag Tax, PO Box 27185, Richmond, VA 23261-71858
Where can I find the guidelines and additional information?
These guidelines are available online under the Guidance Documents section of the VA Department of Taxation's website at http://tax.virginia.gov/guidance-documents. Information regarding which localities have imposed a plastic bag tax will be available on the Department's website at https://www.tax.virginia.gov/disposable-plastic-bag-tax. Please scroll down for additional resources.
If you would like to reach Roanoke's Office of Sustainability, please call (540) 853-5430.
Notice for SNAP and WIC recipients:
Virginia's grocery bag fees may not be paid for with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) benefits. In addition, the Food and Nutrition Service does not have authority to exempt SNAP or WIC clients from this fee. Therefore, grocery bag fees must be paid for using cash, credit card, or non-SNAP or WIC debit. Reusable bags for SNAP and WIC recipients can be found at the SNAP and WIC offices.
Plastic pollution and why this tax will help:
Plastic bags are extremely harmful from the beginning to end of their life cycle. Plastics are produced from fossil fuels and are an enormous contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, making them a driving force behind climate change. In order to reach the City's climate goals and greenhouse gas reduction targets outlined here, this small tax will be a huge step forward in achieving these goals by reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from bag production.
Plastic bags also pose a threat to the health and safety of people and the environment. These bags have a useful life that is often only a few minutes, yet this plastic can last in the environment for hundreds of years or more because it never truly decomposes. When released into the environment, plastic breaks down into smaller pieces called microplastics which are ingested by humans and animals through the food we eat and water we drink. A recent study by the World Wildlife Fund found that humans consume an average of 5 grams of these microplastics every week, which is the equivalent to a credit card’s worth of plastic.
Along with ending up in our bodies, plastic pollution and litter ends up in our natural environment which damages our waterways and stormwater system. There are 10,000 inlets in our city, which gives 10,000 opportunities for plastic bags and other pollution to enter our waterways. Over the next year, this tax has the potential to stop millions of bags from being created and thrown away while increasing revenue for environmental cleanup and education. By bringing your own reusable bags to the store, you can do your part to make meaningful change for your City by keeping the people of Roanoke safe and the land and waterways healthy and beautiful.