Image by DDOE.

Friday won’t just start a new year and a new decade: It also will start a new era in environmental economic incentives as the nation’s first bag charge goes into effect in DC.

Starting Friday, residents will pay 5 cents for each paper or plastic bag, with the revenue going partly to the retailer, partly to administration, and the rest to clean up the Anacostia River.

We stopped in Trader Joe’s on the way home from the airport today, and the cashier confirmed they’ll be charging. “It’s the law,” he said, but warmed when I told him I supported the policy. He said he likes it because the money goes to “green programs.”

According to the cashier, TJ’s will give out free reusable bags during the first week, and will generally offer shoppers a five cent discount for each bag they bring in and use for their purchase. (The law gives retailers 2 cents per 5-cent bag instead of 1 cent if they offer this 5-cent discount.)

Other retailers are getting on board as well. Despite their earlier opposition to the bill, Giant has now gotten on board, appointing a “Green Captain” for each DC store to find opportunities for environmental improvement, offering an estimated 250,000 free reusable bags during the first week in January, and also retaining the 5-cent credit they already offer.

Councilmember Tommy Wells released a list of some of the stores offering promotions tied to the bill. Harris Teeter will give free bags to customers who use their VIC cards and spend more than $20 in January. CVS is distrbuting some of DDOE’s reusable bags at various locations and will also give shoppers a $1 coupon for every four times they bring reusable bags. Safeway is distributing bags through local nonprofits. And Target will offer the 5-cent credit for bags customers bring in.

DDOE will continue to distribute its bags throughout January. According to Wells’ office, Capitol Hill’s business association CHAMPS created bags featuring art by children in Hill schools coinciding with a series of lessons on pollution in the Anacostia. Hill businesses will be selling the bags and using the proceeds to fund more bags and more environmental lessons through the Capitol Hill Green Schools Initiative.

For those of you in DC, what are your local stores saying they will do about bags? Are there other local bag initiatives in your area?

Virginia Delegate Adam Ebbin (D-49th, southern Arlington/Arlandria/Bailey’s Crossroads) and Maryland Delegate Al Carr (D-18th, Chevy Chase/Kensington/Wheaton) plan to introduce similar legislation in their states’ legislatures shortly after the New Year. Both introduced the bills last year as well, but neither got out of committee.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Surface Transit. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions here are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.