What are you giving up for Lent?

Together with Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake and faith leaders around the state, we are calling on Marylanders to fast from plastic bags in the coming season of Lent. People of the Christian faith often practice fasting to reflect on changes they want to make in their lives. We encourage people of all backgrounds to take these 40 days to consider our throwaway culture and simple steps you can take to protect your community and the environment. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 10, and runs until Easter on March 27.

To inspire you, we’re holding a rally on February 9…Mardi Gras! Join us in front of the State House at 9 am. Faith leaders from Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore will speak about protecting our common home. We’ll have reusable bags, of course, along with festive beads and king cake. Need a ride from Baltimore? Get on the bus!

“For many Christians celebrating Lent, they’re preparing to journey with their God and reflect on the changes they want to make in their lives, said Jodi Rose, Executive Director of Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake. “Fasting is one practice that draws them into that journey. We’re challenging Christians to fast from plastic bags this year–and many are embracing this! We live in a throwaway culture that threatens all of Creation. This Lent, we’re asking people to reflect on that throwaway culture, their role in it, and how they can be a witness to God’s desire that we treasure the sacred around us.”

In response to calls from Maryland businesses and a growing awareness of the problems of plastic pollution, Delegate Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City) and Senator Victor Ramirez (D-Prince George’s County) introduced the Community Cleanup and Greening Act in the 2016 session of the Maryland General Assembly.

“It is rare to find a bill that will save businesses and consumers money, while also providing an immeasurable environmental benefit, and the Community Cleanup and Greening Act does just that,” said Delegate Lierman. “I’m so pleased to be sponsoring this urgently needed legislation. The time to help our businesses and save our struggling waters is now, and I am hopeful that the General Assembly will pass this bill this year.”

The Community Cleanup and Greening Act bans plastic shopping bags at checkout. According to cleanup data, plastic bags comprise as much as half the trash polluting Maryland waterways, and they are among the most visible forms of street litter, blowing down sidewalks and tangling in trees and fences. Many Maryland counties have stopped accepting plastic bags in residential recycling programs.

To encourage shoppers to use reusable bags, the bill also requires stores to charge 10 cents for each paper bag. Financial disincentives have successfully changed consumer behavior in other cities and counties, including Washington, DC, and Los Angeles County, California. According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, a typical store distributed 2.2 million disposable bags per year before their ordinance took effect in 2011. Beginning in the first month of the law, the same store distributed bags at a rate of 125,000 per year. (That’s a 95% decrease!)

Public hearings on the bill (HB 31, SB 57) are scheduled for February 2 and February 10.

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