Fee for plastic bags discussed

On April 23, 2014, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

By David R. Smith

Plastic could soon come at a price, although some might say that – when it comes to the environment – it already does.

During the Board of Aldermen’s last meeting, Ward 6 Alderman Rebecca Gewirtz said an article she read in the Boston Globe suggested that charging 5 cents per plastic bag does more to dissuade people from using them –and using cloth bags in their place- than efforts to outright ban their use in stores.

“That evidently changes people’s behavior very quickly,” she said.

She noted other communities have also looked at either bans or fees, and, she added there’s good reason for it given the fact the plastic bags don’t biodegrade and oil is used in their production.

“They’re just an all-out harmful element,” she said. “This is an issue that is very important for the city and is near and dear to my heart.”

She did acknowledge, though, that the idea might meet with some resistance from a financial point of view.

“No one wants to harm or unfairly economically disadvantage people who are low income or who rely on these bags because they’re free,” she said. “There are ways to get free reusable bags, and if you assess a small fee like this, I think people would find that way.”

Board of Aldermen President Bill White suggested the idea be discussed among some of the board’s subcommittees, such as those addressing energy issues and legislatives matters, to determine what the city can and can not do on the issue of assessing a fee for grocery bags.

The issue comes a little under a year after the board passed an ordinance, one also led by Gewirtz, banning restaurants and business from using polystyrene (Styrofoam) products such as coffee cups. That ordinance is set to take effect in June.

“That’s probably the thing I’m proudest of (as an alderman),” Gewirtz said.

On the issue of plastic bags, she would like to see a similar follow through from discussion to some sort of action.

“Let’s look at what some other communities are doing and come to a conclusion together for what’s the best avenue moving forward,” she said.


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