City Desk

Where Can You Still Get Free Plastic Bags? Why, at the Farmers Market, Of Course!

green_beansThe good ol’ farmers market. Promoting sustainability, healthy living, plastic bags?

The city's new 5-cent fee on them—save the Anacostia!—has GOPers picketing, residents running into Maryland and Virginia to shop, and Politics & Prose ditching the mints.

But on any given Sunday, residents can still find an abundance of free plastic bags (free bags for the elite!) at the Dupont Circle Fresh Farm Market, writes Ed Bruske at The Slow Cook. Why? Because farmers markets are exempt from charging a bag fee, says Bernie Prince, co-director at the Fresh Farm Market. Where does the irony end?   

Charles Allen, chief of staff for Tommy Wells, Ward 6 councilmember and the lead sponsor of the bag fee legislation, was surprised to hear this. “When you shop at the farmers market, green beans inside a bag, there’s no fee on that bag," he says. But since there still is a transaction going on, or a so-called "point of sale”—like, when you go to pay for those beans and you walk away with them in a plastic bag—it would seem there should be a charge, he says.

Ultimately, the District Department of Environment (DDOE) is responsible for the interpretation and implementation of the bill, Allen says. So City Desk contacted DDOE. But DDOE had to contact the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) for a bit of assistance: Under the act, a business is required to charge a bag fee if it has to hold a public health and retail license, and that's DCRA's purview. DCRA did not respond to a request for comment.

“We encourage our customers to bring their own canvas bags or baskets, which many of them do.…To be honest, I am uncertain why they [Fresh Farm Market] have not instituted the 5-cent charge,” says Nick Lapham, who sells his produce at Fresh Farm.

Says Prince: “We want to be part of the action here.” But inquiries from Fresh Farm on how to implement the program have gone unanswered by DDOE, Prince says. “We have 40 farmers, it’s not like CVS, with one store with a central checkout.”

So grab those free plastic bags before they disappear. But, hey, bringing your own buckets for those blueberries may not be so bad.

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  • Dan

    This whole law is an embarassment and needs to just be repealed

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  • Geeen

    I've gotten free plastic bags, too. There is a Chinese restaurant on Rhode Island that didn't bother to ring me up the other night, and I can purchase a dress shirt from A.J. Wright (which is already bagged by the manufacturer) and take the bag with me out of the store. Guess what? That shirt bag goes in the Anacostia, too.

    Look, D.C. council members, because I know you read this. You are going about this all wrong. Your bag tax and the doubling of parking fees has already caused 50 businesses to go broke in Georgetown. More will follow.

    The thing is, there is plenty of plastic in the trash stream that is not part of the bag tax. What about lead-leaching toys from China? Plastic sheet bags from dry cleaners? Heavy plastic bags from Wal Mart, etc.

    You also have to consider the "free rider" problem. Where are these bags really coming from? Are they coming from, perhaps, upstream? Like PGC?

    DC is going about the bag tax the wrong way. The stores -- all stores -- should be offering consumers a tax REBATE for using your own bag, not penalizing people who do not.

    Yo, Adrian! What if they had a sales tax holiday and nobody came????


    Sell the fire truck now, bamas!!!!!


  • Fred

    Guys, you have to start somewhere.

    The bags that are given away at the farmer's market near me (and I haven't been this winter to know if they still are giving them away), were actually RECYCLED plastic bags.

    They weren't fresh off the assembly line.

    The penalty is the best way to go.

  • Fred

    Excuse me - reused plastic bags. Don't know if they were recycled too.

  • russ

    I really can't understand the uproar over this. It's 5 cents we're talking about. But it has changed they way people behave, myself included.

    For a while, Safeway was giving a 5 cent per bag discount for bringing your own reusable bags. That's nice, I thought. But I never made too much of an effort to bring my own bags.

    But when they started CHARGING 5 cents per bag? Well, you had better believe I made sure I had my canvas bags with me. But why? If I do a big trip, say ten bags, that's just 50 cents. I could scarcely be bothered to pick up 50 cents if I saw it lying on the ground. But somehow it matters in this context.

    Now that I hear that people are up in arms over this, I am even more convinced that there is some strange psychology going on here. If I'm spending $200-300 at the store, 50 cents is a drop in the bucket. But somehow, it feels like a big deal.