Maryland may soon follow in the steps of Montgomery County and Washington D.C. and enact legislation that would impose a 5-cent charge on disposable plastic and paper bags handed out by retailers. If the proposal is adopted, Maryland would become the first state to impose a statewide disposable bag fee.
The Community Cleanup and Greening Act, House Bill 1086, introduced by Del. Mary L. Washington of Baltimore City, has 33 co-sponsors in House and had its initial hearing Friday in the Environmental Matters Committee. The companion bill in the state Senate has 10 sponsors. The bill is supported by the Trash Free Maryland Alliance, a network of more than 50 environmental and community groups.
The legislation is designed to reduce the number of bags consumers use, substituting reusable shopping bags, for example, and thereby cutting down on trash and water pollution.
Craig Muckle, manager of public affairs for Safeway, told the Capital News Service that in Montgomery County, Safeway saw a 70 percent drop in plastic bags usage at checkouts in 2012, the first year after a 5-cent fee went into effect there.
Laura Chamberlin, program manager of the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative for the Alice Ferguson Foundation, told the Capital News Service that her organization “saw a 50 percent reduction in the number of bags that our volunteers collected from cleanup sites in Montgomery County.”
The Washington Post reported that D.C. Council members Tommy Wells and Marion Barry, who supported the District’s 2009 bag fee law, have urged the Maryland black caucus to get behind the proposed legislation. Wells and Barry made the case that lower-income neighborhoods are hurt more by trash from bags than higher income neighborhoods and that a bag charge could lower expenses for local residents.
According to The Post, Wells noted that some stores, such as Aldi’s and Save-A-Lot, already charge for bags instead of working the cost of bags into their pricing.
The Anacostia Watershed Society reports that the D.C. bag fee, which took effect in January of 2010, is already helping clean up the Anacostia River.