Springfield Again Considers A Plastic Bag Ban (WAMC)
Listen to the original interview with WAMC's Paul Tuthill here.
The largest city in western Massachusetts is again considering a ban on single use plastic bags by retailers. This as a growing number of cities and towns in Massachusetts have enacted plastic bag regulations, but movement toward a statewide ban stalled.
Two years after a proposed ordinance to ban plastic bags died in a Springfield City Council committee, the idea has been resurrected by City Councilor Jesse Lederman, who has drafted an ordinance.
"What it would essentially do is end the distribution of most single-use plastic bags at the point of sale in the city of Springfield," explained Lederman.
The ordinance, as currently written, would allow for up to a one-year phase in to allow retailers to use up plastic bags already in stock. Stores could charge customers up to 10 cents for checkout bags made of recyclable paper or compostable plastic.
"What we are really looking for people to do is to bring re-usable bags," said Lederman.
Supporters of banning plastic bags say it will reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills and incinerators and cut down on litter.
There are exemptions in the proposed Springfield ordinance for dry cleaning bags and plastic bags that are used in stores in hold items such as loose produce, fruits and baked goods.
Lederman, who chairs the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee, is gathering public feedback on the proposals before writing a final ordinance to bring to the full council for a vote.
"Since bringing the proposal forward, there has been strong support from the community so far and it was important for me to work with the business community, so there have been talks with the Chamber of Commerce," said Lederman.
Nancy Creed, president of the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the local business community is anxious to hear details about the proposed plastic bag ban.
"They understand the intent, and they want to reduce the environmental waste, but exactly how we go about that is causing some concerns," said Creed.
The proposed ordinance was recommended by the city’s Green Committee – an ad hoc group of people appointed by Springfield City Council President Orlando Ramos to study and recommend environmental initiatives for the city to pursue.
Green Committee member Mike Kocsmirsky said the Sierra Club estimated that 81 million plastic bags are given out annually by retailers in Springfield.
"There are so many plastic bags that the average life span is about 12 minutes," said Kocsmirsky.
Michaelann Bewsee, a founder of the anti-poverty organization Arise for Social Justice, endorsed the plastic bag ban, despite concerns about how low income people would be impacted by having to pay the proposed 10 cents per bag fee.
"I want Springfield to be seen as a place you want to come move to because we are progressive and green and do what we can to address these issues," explained Bewsee.
In Massachusetts currently, 87 communities have regulations on single-use plastic bags including Boston.
Earlier this year, a proposed statewide ban was dropped from a compromise environmental bond bill in the state legislature.
Democratic State Senator Eric Lesser of Longmeadow expects the issue will be revisited sometime after the new session begins in January.
"The local town-by-town bans work because they build momentum and a growing consensus for action on a state level, so I applaud the ( Springfield) City Council for engaging on the issue and I they continue to move it forward," said Lesser.
In 2016, a ban on single-use plastic bags was included by the State Senate as a budget amendment, but did not make it through a conference committee.