The newest municipal government in the United States to outlaw plastic shopping bags is Baltimore County.
The “Bring Your Own Bag Act” was approved by the Baltimore County Council on Monday by a vote of five to two, following the lead of the City of Baltimore, which enacted a plastic bag ban in 2019.
According to CBS Baltimore, Baltimore County Second District Councilman Izzy Patoka said, “Plastic bags have been a menace to our environment for many, many years and we’re going to address that issue.”
Local environmental organizations, such as Maryland PIRG, backed the legislation because of the harm that plastic bags do to the Baltimore ecosystem. According to Maryland PIRG, there are issues with each method of bag disposal.
Recycling them tangles up machinery, incineration adds to air pollution, and landfilling them runs the risk of leaking and adding to water pollution. However, if they are not disposed of properly, they may blow into the surrounding area and pollute rivers, especially Chesapeake Bay.
Julian Jones, the chairman of the Baltimore County Council and a Democrat from District 4, said, “We’ve always had this issue on our radar. Numerous environmental organizations have lobbied us to ban plastic bags from the beginning of time.
Three council members, including Patoka, introduced the bill. It wasn’t without controversy, though. WBAL TV continued that only after multiple revisions was it ultimately approved. These comprised:
- Reducing the fee for requesting a paper bag at a store from 10 to five cents.
- Exempting most small businesses.
- Adding a 90-day grace period.
Farmers’ markets will also not be required to charge for bags, according to CBS Baltimore.
Jones was one of the two council members who voted against the prohibition. Todd Crandell, a councilman from District 7, was the other, and he thought it was an example of government overreach.
According to Crandell, who has served on the council for more than eight years, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a piece of legislation that was more complicated, as WBAL TV reported. In fact, it was so complicated that it required ten modifications to try to get it right, and all we’re going to do is impose a tax on Baltimore County’s consumers.
However, because the stores are not required to pay the fee to the county, supporters made it clear that it was not a tax, according to CBS Baltimore. The purpose of the fee is to incentivize individuals to carry their own reusable bags.
The new prohibition was met with mixed reactions from Baltimore citizens.
According to CBS Baltimore, Baltimore County resident Keith DeFontes stated, “I think that’s absurd.” “I believe that the county should allow people to be themselves. Keep out of their personal matters and, in general, let them use plastic if they so choose.
Others, though, believed that reducing plastic usage was worthwhile.
Before the bill was passed, community member Brandon Jackson told WBAL TV, “I feel like just using paper bags or any alternative is definitely better than using plastic bags because it’s already just destroying the environment.”
Now, on November 1st of this upcoming year, the new law will come into force. After a delay brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the City of Baltimore ban entered into force in October of 2021, which is around two years later. A five-cent fee per bag is also required by the city ban, but one cent of that fee must be given back to the government.
The National Council of State Legislatures reports that eight states in the United States have outlawed plastic bags. However, there are much more city and county governments that have enacted bans. You can see all bag legislation within your or any state at Banthebag.com.