Plastic Bag Tax

Beginning on January 1, 2023, the City of Charlottesville will implement a five-cent ($0.05) tax, as defined by Virginia Code § 58.1-1745, on applicable disposable plastic bags provided to customers at checkout in grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores within City limits.  

For more information see the following from The Virginia Department of Taxation:

For SNAP and WIC beneficiaries, please see your social services coordinator to obtain reusable, recycled bags for your household. 

What is the Plastic Bag Tax?Plastic Bag Tax Start Date

On January 1st, 2023, The City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County (LINK) are joining the movement to reduce plastic pollution in our community by introducing a 5-cent tax to applicable plastic bags and retailers. The tax will be administered by the Virginia Department of Taxation. While this does not eliminate the use of plastic bags altogether, it incentivizes the use of reusable materials like bags, boxes, and baskets to transport purchased items. An important provision of the ordinance requires that the revenue from the 5-cent tax be funneled into environmental education, pollution clean-up, and providing reusable bags for SNAP and WIC recipients.  

This is made possible by 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)) authorizing any county or city to adopt by ordinance the Virginia Disposable Plastic Bag Tax.

Again, the tax will begin January 1st, 2023 within Charlottesville City Limits and Albemarle County. 

Less Plastic Cville

Plastic doesn’t organically decompose- it stays plastic forever, only breaking down into smaller, microscopic particles called microplastic, which is dangerous for health because of how easily these particles infiltrate living systems. Due to persistent plastic pollution worldwide, including in our own region, growing levels of microplastics are found in water, soil, and the human bloodstream. The World Wildlife Fund discovered that humans could be consuming as many as five grams of microplastics each week- that's the equivalent of an entire credit card per week.  

It is the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County’s chief interest to serve its community, and downstream neighbors, by reducing the environmental microplastics that effect the health of our people, land, and water. Taxing plastic bags is a valuable approach to this problem because it reduces the number of plastic bags sold, the overall demand and production of plastic bags, and the reduction of plastics degrading into the water table and soil horizons of our region and the world.  

Plastic Grocery Bag Statistics: 

  • 500 billion plastic grocery bags are used each year 
  • 98% of these bags have a “working life” of only 15 minutes  
  • The packaging industry, which includes grocery bags, accounts for 40% of plastic use 

Plastic grocery bags are an especially important target as they more rapidly disintegrate and disperse into the soil and water; they are everywhere. Charlottesville, unfortunately, has many areas with degraded water and soil quality, so reducing the production and consumption of plastic bags improves the living environment of our community by improving soil and water health.   

What Type of Plastic Bags Will Be Impacted?

Plastic bags that ARE subject to the tax are disposable plastic bags provided to shoppers at checkout in grocery stores, convenience stores, or pharmacies

Plastic bags NOT subject to the tax are as follows: 

  • Paper bags provided at checkout 
  • Self-provisioned containers such as reusable bags, boxes, or baskets 
  • 4mm thick plastic bags designed for multiple uses 
  • Plastic bags solely used to wrap, contain or package the following types of goods in order to prevent damage or contamination: ice cream, meat, fish, poultry, produce, unwrapped bulk food items, perishable food items, prescriptions, dry cleaning, and bulk-sold bags for garbage, pet-waste, and leaf removal

Information for SNAP/WIC Recipients

 A key part of the Plastic Bag Tax is the provision requiring that tax revenue goes specifically towards providing access to reusable bags and materials for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), including Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) beneficiaries. 

  • Charlottesville City Council Approves Funding for Bag Distribution (LINK) 
  • Two (2) reusable bags will be provided to each household of SNAP and WIC beneficiaries free of charge. 
  • Can the plastic bag tax be paid for with EBT cards for SNAP or WIC recipients? No, the state’s grocery bag fees may not be paid for with SNAP or 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 cashPlastic Bag Alternatives, credit card, or non-SNAP or WIC debit.

Information for the Public

To avoid the 5-cent tax, which is applied to each plastic grocery bag used at checkout, please bring reusable bags, boxes, or baskets to collect your purchased items at checkout.  

The revenue of the Plastic Bag Tax must be used to purchase and distribute reusable bags to vulnerable populations and fund environmental education and litter clean-up programs. This will help The City of Charlottesville serve its citizens now and in the future by providing a healthier soil and water environment.

Information for Businesses 

The Plastic Bag Tax will begin within Charlottesville City limits for grocery stores, convenience stores, and pharmacies on January 1st, 2023. The Plastic Bag tax will be collected, administered, and enforced by the Virginia Department of Taxation the same way as the local Sales Tax.  

Beginning January 1st, retailers will be able to retain 1-cent (0.01) per bag.  

If businesses have questions about their participation, please call the Customer Service section at the Virginia Department of Taxation at 804-367-8037.  

For more information on taxable items, tax collection, and dealer discounts, please regard the following document from The Virginia Department of Taxation: Guidelines For Businesses 

Outreach Materials for Businesses: