Baltimore may soon follow in the steps of Montgomery County and Washington D.C. and enact legislation that would impose a fee on disposable plastic and paper bags handed out by retailers.
City Councilman Brandon Scott introduced legislation Monday that would require retailers, including grocery and convenience stores, to charge customers 10 cents for paper and plastic bags. In a statement introducing the legislation, Scott noted the impact similar legislation in D.C. has had on cleaning up the Anacostia River.
In a tweet, Scott said he hopes the bill will change consumer behavior, adding that getting Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and her administration "to agree to use it [revenue from the bill] for green initiatives is key" to legislation's success.
"We have to get out of this mindset that new and innovative stuff, that are great for people, and great for the environment don’t work here in Baltimore. In Baltimore we have this mindset of 'if it’s new we don’t want it,'" said Scott in a Patch.com story about the bill. "We want things to work the way they have forever, and the way things have been working forever have ultimately have negatively impacted the city."
Councilman James Kraft, a co-sponsor of the bill, said at a recent Healthy Harbor initiative press conference that the current bag law, which seeks voluntary compliance from retailers, hasn't been effective.
"We have more plastic bags in the streams than fish," Scott told the Baltimore Sun. "If you go to a park in my district, all you see is plastic bags."
Earlier this year, Del. Mary L. Washington of Baltimore City, introduced the Community Cleanup and Greening Act in Annapolis, House Bill 1086, which had 33 co-sponsors, but did not get out of the Environmental Matters Committee. The companion bill in the state Senate had 10 sponsors. The bill was supported by the Trash Free Maryland Alliance, a network of more than 50 environmental and community groups.
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.