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Boston Plastic Bag Ban Coming to Vote

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Fewer than 5 percent of single-use plastic bags are recycled. (Kate Ter Haar/Flickr)
Fewer than 5 percent of single-use plastic bags are recycled. (Kate Ter Haar/Flickr)
November 29, 2017

BOSTON – The Boston City Council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on an ordinance that would ban plastic bags in the city.

The average plastic bag given out at store checkout counters is used for about 12 minutes.

They are non-biodegradable, clog landfills and pollute the air when burned. They litter the streets, get snagged in tree branches where they shred in the wind, and end up as microscopic pieces in fish and other animals.

According to Kirstie Pecci, a senior fellow at the Conservation Law Foundation and founder of the foundation's Zero Waste Project, about 60 towns across the state already have enacted bans.

"Banning plastic bags is the best solution because, while technically plastic single-use bags are recyclable, they don't get recycled,” she states. “Only about 1 (percent) to 5 percent of the plastic bags used get recycled."

Last year, Mayor Marty Walsh expressed concerns about the measure's impact on small businesses and low-income people.

On Tuesday, his office reportedly still was reviewing the proposal.

Under the ordinance, shoppers would bring their own reusable bags to stores or purchase a more durable plastic bag for 5 cents.

Opponents call that a tax on consumers, but Pecci says it's an approach that works.

"As soon as you do that, you see an immediate decrease in the use of plastic bags and people become very used to bringing their own bags with them when they go to shop, and it works out really well," she points out.

Last year, California became the first state in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags.

Even if the Boston ordinance fails to pass, Pecci is confident that a ban on plastic bags is in the city's future.

She points out that next year the city will begin the process of formulating a zero-waste plan to decrease waste and increase recycling and composting.

"So they've hired a consultant, they're starting public meetings on Jan. 4, and I think it's most definite that a plastic-bag ban has to be part of that," she points out.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - MA