On Monday, June 17, 2019, Councilman Bill Henry introduced legislation to ban the free distribution of plastic bags at the point of sale, and place a fee on other types of bags, such as paper.
Why plastic bags? I see lots of other litter too.
We can educate people about the problems of litter generally, but to create significant behavior change, we have to target specific behaviors. Each component of litter is associated with different specific behaviors, so each component requires a specific approach. With bags, we can significantly reduce litter by encouraging reusable bag use. With beverage containers, we reduce littering and increase cleanup by making the bottles and cans worth something–a refundable deposit has been proven for decades to work. For cigarette butts, we need disposal devices that people don’t fear will catch fire–and we need people to realize those filters are not biodegradable. The list goes on. Addressing disposable bags is just one piece of the puzzle.
Isn’t this a tax on the poor?
Everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, can make the choice about whether to bring a reusable bag or not. The bag law will only affect your shopping bill if you choose to use disposable bags.
How will the fee be used?
Currently the bill proposes that businesses retain .1 out of every .5 charge. Trash Free Maryland will encourage that businesses get to retain more, and that funds raised by the City be dedicated toward litter mitigation, and providing resources – like reusable bags – to low income residents.
Won’t it hurt small businesses?
In DC and Montgomery County where fees have been in place for a few years, no business has reported declining sales because of bag laws. Instead, most report significant savings because they don’t have to buy as many bags.
Ways to Get involved and support this bill: