So, the Gazette thinks Montgomery County — recognized as a national leader in efforts to improve environmental quality — should backslide on the environment. Bad idea.
The Gazette editorial Feb. 6 suggested limiting the county’s bag law to just groceries and restaurants, although purchases from other types of retailers also generate millions of bags a year.
In 2008 each person in the country used 335 disposable bags a year — or about one bag a day — according to a U.S. International Trade Commission. The Gazette editorial itself cited the fact that bag usage in Montgomery County during the last year of the bag law showed that the average county resident used about one disposable bag a week. Where I come from we call that “progress.”
The number of bags along Rock Creek has dropped dramatically since enactment of the bag law in January 2012, according to the Rock Creek Conservancy. Between April 2011 and April 2012, the number of plastic bags collected in Montgomery County dropped from 5,274 to 3,957, a decline of 25 percent in just a few months. Executive Director Beth Mullin said the broader scope of Montgomery County’s bag law is “making people start to think whether they actually need a bag, and many times they don’t. Sales associates no longer automatically bag items, and people feel more empowered to say, ‘No bag.’ And that makes a visible and measurable difference for Rock Creek.”
Let’s remember why we have a bag law in the first place — to help clean up the environment and improve water quality. Even though this is an area where the county actually wants to collect less money, all net proceeds go to the County’s Water Quality Protection Fund. Montgomery County remains committed to the bag law, and we will be gathering the appropriate data to confirm the positive effect the law is having on our environment.
Patrick Lacefield, Potomac
The writer is the director of the Office of Public Information for Montgomery County.