JP Observer: City effort would replace plastic shopping bags

November 25, 2016
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Plastic shopping bags litter our landscape. Inflated by the wind, they blow from tree branches too high to reach. Bunched up, they block storm drains. They improperly fill recycling bins, tangle trash disposal equipment and halt operations. They clog the bellies of sea creatures and birds.

The petroleum-based thin bags cause an environmental mess in Jamaica Plain and Boston. Some people take reusable bags shopping, but not nearly enough. Increasing reusable bag use is the goal of restrictions.

Currently, 91 cities and towns in Massachusetts have various plastic bag ordinances, and they have been proposed in at least nine more. They are being adopted all over the country.

Jamaica Plain’s District 6 City Councilor Matt O’Malley is chairing a Plastic Bag Ordinance Task Force to come up with solutions to the problem in Boston.

At the third and last task force meeting on Oct. 25, he floated some provisions that might become part of a proposal to present to the City Council down the road. Council President Michelle Wu of Roslindale and staff members from other councilors’ offices were also at the meeting.

Referring to Cambridge and Seattle’s ordinances as “good models,” O’Malley recommended something like Seattle’s. Seattle bans plastic bags under 2.25 millimeters. Paper bags are available to shoppers for a 5-cent fee. Thicker plastic bags are considered reusable. Food delivery efforts and people using electronic benefit transfer cards are exempt there.

O’Malley reported that thin plastic bag use has been reduced significantly there since the law went into effect more than four years ago. The same as been reported everywhere plastic bag restrictions are in effect.

JP residents and businesses have shared their opinions on this issue more than any other neighborhood so far in an online survey O’Malley set up. Of 364 responses given by Oct. 27, 25.6 percent were from JP, with next highest from West Roxbury at 14.5 percent.

People are still being encouraged to fill out the survey on line at goo.gl/vJpMnQ or call O’Malley’s office at 616-635-4220.

Boston can play a huge role in promoting plastic bag restrictions for the entire commonwealth. A bill sits in committee at the State House right now as legislators wait to learn what Boston decides. Many people, including industry representatives at the City Hall meeting, indicated that they have concerns but the ideal is to have uniform rules across the state. Boston could set the tone.

People and businesses still have time to voice ideas, as they have been, on bag thickness, fees for paper bags, and who and what may not be included in the ban as well. But people need to express their enthusiasm for such a Boston ordinance in the first place.

JP has led the way to push environmental efforts in the city since it established its own volunteer household recycling in the late 1980s. People here stepped up to comment on plastic shopping bags already. Let’s follow up by supporting the Task Force’s excellent work and the law they propose.

[Sandra Storey is founder and former publisher and editor of the Jamaica Plain Gazette.]

 

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