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Plastic Bags Could Be Gone In The City

Official photograph

Those plastic bags you get at your local supermarket, or just about anywhere you shop in Baltimore City, could be a thing of the past under a measure City Councilman Bill Henry plans to introduce at Monday’s council meeting.

The bill would ban plastic bags altogether and place a surcharge of five cents on other bags — like paper or compostable bags —at the point of sale or during pick up or delivery. 

The council, which does not have the authority to direct revenue from the five cent surcharge, will lobby to direct four cents toward environmental purposes. Businesses behind the point of sale would receive the remaining penny. People who receive benefits from federal food assistance programs, such as SNAP and WIC, would be exempt from the five cent fee.

The bill is not the council’s first attempt to curb plastic bag use in the city.

In 2014, the council voted 11 - 1, with two abstaining members, to ban plastic grocery bags, but then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake vetoed the measure introduced by former council member James Kraft. As a councilman, now-City Council President Brandon Scott introduced a failed 2013 bill that would have charged shoppers a fee of 10 cents per plastic bag.

Despite the several failed attempts at passing plastic bag legislation, 96 percent of Baltimore residents support policies that lead to waste reduction, recycling and reuse, according to a survey from the Department of Public Works. The department’s survey also showed another 86 percent of residents support policies that ban single-use plastics or other retailer responsibility policies.

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.
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