On January 1st, 2010, Washington, DC put into effect a new law known as "Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act of 2009". This law has been known mostly as the Plastic Bag Fee law. If you make a retail purchase in the city and don't have your own bag with you, you will pay .05 cents if you get a bag to carry your merchandise.
The "Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act of 2009" is very stringent and very detailed. It is a law grounded by and crafted from detailed surveys and statistics. This law would be hard to overturn.
There will be no more single use, non-recyclable, disposable bags to carry your purchases home. If you don't have your own bag with you, your purchase will go into a recyclable bag and you'll pay to get that bag.
The Anacostia River runs through DC and has had other problems. A few years back, the City was sued for allowing raw sewage and storm water runoff to flow into the river and it's tributaries. The Anacostia is so polluted, there are at least two volunteer entities and two government agencies dedicated to stopping and cleaning up the pollution.
The new law is actually the result of the Anacostia River Trash Reduction Plan. A Five Year Plan, here is an explanation from the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) website:
The District of Columbia is a partner in the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Treaty. The goal of the treaty is a trash free watershed by 2013. The Anacostia River, an urban tributary to the Potomac River, has a severe problem with excessive trash. This has resulted in both the District of Columbia and State of Maryland determining that pollution has impaired the quality of the river to the point that trash loads must be reduced. The two entities have agreed to use the Anacostia as a model of how to reduce trash in a river and move toward a trash free Potomac Watershed.
There is a saying, "Pay me now, or pay me later". It seems the citizens around the Anacostia River didn't and wouldn't police themselves from polluting the river, so now they'll pay for the clean up and maintenance through a plastic bag fee. I call this a Back Door Plastic Bag Ban because all bags were not completely banned. The Fee will create the ban when citizens decide to get reusable bags so they don't have to pay the fee.