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This report was corrected March 2, 2012. An explanation follows the story.

Delegates from Prince George’s County gave a proposed fee on disposable bags their seal of approval Friday, paving the way for the County Council to adopt the fee later this year.

The county’s House delegation voted, 12-9, in favor of the bill, which enables the county to impose a fee for the use of disposable bags at retail stores. Fees of 5 cents per bag are already in place in Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County.

The bill must now go before the House Environmental Matters Committee and the body as a whole, but because local courtesy is usually extended to delegation bills it is expected to pass.

The proposal has earned the support of environmental groups such as the Bladensburg-based Anacostia Watershed Society, which has argued that it will reduce the amount of trash that ends up in the Anacostia River.

“I’m very happy,” said Del. Justin Ross (D-Dist. 22) of College Park, adding that the bill would help prevent children from having to walk past trash on the way to school.

A specific amount for the fee is not included in the legislation, but council members have suggested customers pay a 5-cent fee for each disposable bag used, and receive a similar credit for each reusable bag they use—meaning they could avoid the fee altogether.

Critics of the bill have argued that reusable bags pose a health risk; bags used to carry raw meat would need to be washed thoroughly if the items leaked.

The County Council voted 8-0 to support the bill last month. Once the legislation passes the General Assembly, the council likely will take up a bill to establish the fee later this year, said council Chairwoman Andrea Harrison (D-Dist. 5) of Springdale.

dleaderman@gazette.net

This report was corrected to note that the fee would be on disposable bags.