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City Plastic Bag Ban Further Delayed Until October

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Martin Belam/Flickr
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A plastic bag. On Friday, Mayor Brandon Scott announced a second delay of a citywide plastic bag ban.

Mayor Brandon Scott announced Friday a further delay of a citywide plastic bag ban. Baltimore businesses now have until October to prepare for the ban’s implementation, instead of July.

“Now that Baltimore is beginning to emerge from the pandemic and recover from its impacts, we recognize that retailers and residents could benefit from additional time to adopt this important change,” the Democrat said in a statement.

A news release from Scott’s office said that the Office of Sustainability will work to educate residents and retailers about the ban and its new effective date throughout the next several months, as well as distribute thousands of reusable bags to residents. The ban prohibits businesses from using single-use plastic bags at the point of sale, meaning grocery stores and restaurants will not be allowed to distribute them at check out lines and takeout counters.

The ban also requires businesses to charge a minimum of five cents for each alternative bag distributed at check out, such as a paper or compostable bag. One penny of that fee must be remitted to the city, businesses will keep the rest. Retailers found to have violated the ban’s policies three or more times may be fined up to $1,000.

The law was first introduced in 2019 by then-Councilman Bill Henry; his legislation was the ninth attempt to ban plastic bags since 2006. After the council approved Henry’s bill, then-Mayor Jack Young signed it into law in January 2020; it was due to go into effect a year later. In January of this year, Scott delayed the implementation of the law until July, citing economic hardships for local businesses tied to the coronavirus pandemic. Friday’s announcement is his second delay.

In a statement, Comptroller Henry said he is excited to support the city’s public education campaign on the plastic bag ban as Baltimore prepares to move out of the state of emergency.

“Collaboration is the only way to accomplish the ban’s goal – reducing plastic waste in our waterways and lessening our reliance on fossil fuels,” he said.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.