Read the original article by Peter Goonan here.
SPRINGFIELD — The City Council voted unanimously on Monday to approve a ban on single-use plastic bags given out by stores, with councilors saying it was the right thing to do for the protection of the environment.
The ban, if signed by Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, would take effect June 1, 2020, for stores that are larger than 10,000 square feet, and six months later for stores that are smaller. That’s intended to give stores adequate time to prepare for the change.
“We’ve done the right thing to pass an ordinance that was long in the making for the city of Springfield,” said Councilor Jesse Lederman, the lead sponsor of the ordinance. “This is a step in the right direction for sustainability. It’s a step in the right direction for showing our commitment for doing our part.”
More than 90 communities in Massachusetts have bans on single use-plastic bags, and the state Legislature is considering a statewide ban, officials said.
Under the Springfield ordinance, as amended Monday, stores can provide certain bags either free of charge or for some fee. There was initially a requirement for the stores to charge a fee, but that clause was changed to leave it up to the stores.
Stores must provide either “a recyclable paper bag, a compostable and marine-degradable plastic bag, or a reusable checkout bag,” according to the ordinance. Shoppers can bring their own bags instead of getting a bag from the store.
Councilor Melvin Edwards said he believes it was unnecessary to take so long to pass the ordinance. A ban was first proposed in 2016, and two separate times in 2018. A version proposed in November has been under debate ever since.
"We all know it was the right thing to do," Edwards said.
Charlie Knight, a former member of the city’s Green Committee and current president of the Armoury Quadrangle Civic Association, joined in praising the vote. He is formerly from the Great Barrington area where, he said, people got used to bringing their own shopping bags. Disposable plastic bags are harmful to the environment and wildlife, he said.
There were multiple public meetings and amendments in recent months, and Lederman said the final document "takes into account concerns and ideas" raised by the public and councilors.
Sarno said he will review the ordinance with the amendments.
"My goal, as always, is what is fair, realistic and cost effective for the best interests of our residents and business community," Sarno said Monday in advance of the vote.
Councilors Michael Fenton, Timothy Ryan, Kenneth Shea, Orlando Ramos and Adam Gomez raised concerns about requiring businesses to charge for reusable bags. Some stores already do charge a fee, by their own policy, councilors said.
Big Y Foods and Pride Stores recently announced plans for eliminating single-use plastic bags.
The ordinance does not prohibit plastic bags for dry cleaning, newspapers, pharmacy items, or to wrap produce, meat or fish before checkout.