Baltimore Renews Efforts To Ban Plastic Bags

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake Is Open To Ban

Baltimore Plastic Bag BanCity councilors in Baltimore are again considering legislation that would ban single-use plastic bags in stores, a month after the city’s mayor vetoed a similar bill. If the new proposal is passed and signed, Baltimore would become the first major city on the East Coast to enact a ban.

Earlier this week, Councilman Bill Henry reintroduced a bill that seeks to ban most plastic bags distributed in city grocery stores and big-box retailers. “It was clear at the end of last year, there were people whose concerns about the bill centered on the process,” Henry said. “I want to make sure there is every opportunity for people to express their feelings about a ban versus a fee. I’m hopeful we will arrive at the win-win of more reusable bag use and less disposable bag use.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she is open to the ban, but is worried about burdening the city’s poorer residents if grocery stores raise prices to accommodate the cost of more expensive paper bags. When she vetoed the bill in December, Rawlings-Blake said it was because she disagreed with the way the city council had passed it, amending the legislation from a 5-cent tax to a ban moments before the vote.

James B. Kraft, councilman and chair of the committee that would hold a hearing on the reintroduced bill, has said that he won’t give the legislation consideration until the mayor pledges her support. “If she doesn’t say she’ll sign it, I’m not hearing it,” Kraft said. “I’m not going to waste everyone’s time with a bill that’s going to get vetoed again.”

The proposed single-use plastic bag ban is an attempt to eliminate litter, particularly bags that accumulate in the Chesapeake Bay. Opponents fear the ban will drive businesses away from the city. The bill has numerous exceptions, allowing plastic bag use for fish, meats, poultry, produce, restaurant carry-out, ice and pharmacy drugs.