DC Uses Plastic Bag Tax to Clean Up The Anacostia & Create Jobs

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The District of Columbia is now becoming a model for communities across America for the way its government is handling a critical environmental issue – The DC Government introduced a plastic bag tax in 2010 to discourage single use bags and clean up the Anacostia River. Now this money is restoring the river’s health, creating jobs and the tax has helped bring down the use of plastic bags across the District.

In an on-going effort to prevent trash from entering local waterways, the District has installed two new Bandalong™ Litter Traps in the Anacostia River Watershed, the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) announced in January.

The two Bandalongs, one installed at Watts Branch near the District/Prince George’s County line and the other at an MS4 outfall near the James Creek Marina in SW, will be instrumental in preventing trash and debris from reaching the mainstem of the Anacostia River. Since the installation of the first Bandalong at the mouth of Watts Branch in 2009, the District and its partners have collected more than six tons of trash and debris.

Funds from the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Fund (the $.05 Bag Law) were used to pay for the Bandalong installations. The Fund raised approximately $3.4 million through September 2011 and is used for restoration, education, and trash-reduction projects in the District’s waterways, as well as for outreach, implementation (including enforcement), and reusable-bag distribution.

DDOE Director Christophe A.G. Tulou said,

“This is another progressive step towards restoring our rivers and streams. With these Bandalongs, we are doing what is necessary to ensure that our waterways are trash free and, at the same time, improving the quality of life for District residents.”

“I’m thrilled about today’s announcement,” says Council member Tommy Wells (Ward 6) and the principal author of the bag law. “The city is keeping its promise to use the funds collected to invest in the clean-up and restoration of the Anacostia River. Today we are marking another step in restoring the River’s health for all of our residents to enjoy”

Mike Bolinder, Anacostia Riverkeeper and manager of the Bandalong project added, “Everybody wins with a Bandalong project. The river is cleaner, jobs are being created, the City has help meeting its TMDL obligations and we’re gathering crucial data about litter.  This is a model every city in America should follow.”  The Bandalongs were installed as part of a grant awarded by DDOE to Anacostia Riverkeeper.

Groundwork Anacostia River DC, another local non-profit that uses environmental restoration as a means for community development, will be conducting annual maintenance on both devices.  “Hopefully going forward, other jurisdictions will follow DC’s lead and see the incredible benefit in investing in this technology and supporting the resources that can work right along with it,” commented Dennis Chestnut, Executive Director of Groundwork Anacostia River DC.  “By combining effective equipment, the Bandalong, with a community’s most valuable resources, the people, we are able to make the Bandalong the most efficient system operating.”

Watts Branch is the largest non-tidal tributary in the District’s portion of the Anacostia watershed. Installation of these devices will help ensure that the District moves toward making Watts Branch a trash-free tributary.


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