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Bag Tax Hits Montgomery County In 2012

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Montgomery County will join D.C. in charging consumers a 5-cent surcharge for plastic shopping bags to encourage the use of reusable bags.
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Montgomery County will join D.C. in charging consumers a 5-cent surcharge for plastic shopping bags to encourage the use of reusable bags.

In less than two months, Montgomery County, Maryland will join the District in taxing shopping bags. Shoppers will start to see ads and signs about the five-cent tax around Thanksgiving and then through the holiday season. Retailers will start collecting it January 1, with $.04 going to the county for each paper and plastic bag given to consumers.  

County spokesman Patrick Lacefield says they think the holidays are the right time to do this, figuring the best time to remind shoppers they need to make the switch is while they're shopping. Much of the county law is based on D.C.'s tax, but Lacefield says their marketing message is different.

"They spent more money mailing to every household in the District," says Lacefield. "We're not going to be doing that. We're largely using web-based things, emails, and we're going to be using a lot of community organizations."

The county's efforts include unofficially changing the name of the effort to an unofficial holiday. Black Friday is, of course, the day after Thanksgiving, and it is the biggest shopping day of the year. County spokesman Patrick Lacefield says this year they're calling it "Green Friday," figuring it's the perfect day to remind shoppers of the tax.

"Obviously, it's a challenge on one level, because people are focused on one thing," he says. "But on the other hand, that thing happens to coincide with the bags." The county will be partnering with those community groups to pass out reusable bags to seniors and low-income families in the coming weeks.

The revenue raised from the tax will go toward litter cleanup, though Lacefield hopes they don't collect much. "Keep your money. Bring a bag," he says. "We would rather get no money out of this, and have people make the move to reusable bags."

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