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plastic bag

The BOA Programs and Services committee met on March 19th holding a public hearing on the proposed ban on plastic bags (pages 55-58). When this was last posted to V14, talk was centered around bag fees. The scope of the current ordnance is interesting in that it includes plastic and paper bags, health safety concerns surrounding reusable bags and is free of fees for the use of plastic bags.

The Board of Aldermen hereby finds that the reduction in the use of plastic bags by commercial entities in the City of Newton (the “City”) is a public purpose that protects the marine environment, advances solid waste reduction and protects waterways. This Ordinance seeks to reduce the number of plastic bags that are being used, discarded and littered, and to promote the use of reusable checkout bags by retail stores located in the City. Further, this Ordinance seeks to reduce the use of paper bags, due to their greater use of natural resources and higher cost impacts on retailers. This Ordinance also seeks to ensure that customers using reusable checkout bags are made aware of the need to keep those bags sanitized between uses in order to protect against the transmission of foodborne illnesses.

Some of my observations from the meeting.

  • The conversation was mostly cordial.
  • The environmental folks spoke about their issues, permanent pollutant that never leaves the environment nor food chain.
  • The business folks spoke about the cost to convert from plastic and lost marketing opportunities.
  • The alderman, who spoke, indicated that this was targeting large stores with a phased in option to protect the small retailers.
  • The city’s public health commissioner may not able to enforce the ordinance.
  • Ted Hess-Mahan has not heard “poop” so many times since his kids were much younger.

The two most eloquent speakers were residents, one who surveyed the plastics he saw in a single day and thought that we would be better served educating folks about the bigger issue of pervasive plastics,  and another who related the trials she observed in “giving up plastics” for lent letting us know that it is possible but challenging.

While I have not personally observed the “streets with trees littered by plastic grocery bags”, I frequently see plastic newspaper bags (exempt from this ordinance) walking around town.

No vote was taken last week and some comments from committee members expressed concern that more thought may be needed.