Plastic Bags (copy)

Patrica Cox loads her car with goods packed in single-use plastic bags. A work group will look at the feasibility of a single-use plastic ban and related issues in Frederick County.

Frederick County Council members and the city of Frederick’s Board of Aldermen discussed Councilman Kai Hagen’s proposed single-use plastic ban at a joint meeting Wednesday night.

Hagen (D) told council members and aldermen about a work group that would probably be made up of six to 10 people. The group would look at the feasibility of a single-use plastic ban and related issues countywide, and complete its work by the fall or winter, he added.

The work group could include a representative from the Board of Aldermen, a council member and other sections of the community. Hagen said he would try to seat those who are skeptical about the proposed ban as well as supporters of it.

Several elected officials expressed support for the idea, including Councilman Jerry Donald (D). Donald described a time when he drove along the Golden Mile, and the number of plastic bags he saw discarded near the road.

“I was like, holy cow, there was more plastic on the trees than leaves,” Donald said.

One point Hagen made in the discussion is that a market exists for bags and other items to be made of other materials, such as cornstarch or hemp.

Alderman Ben MacShane, who previously discussed the issue with Hagen, said those alternative products exist, and that the county and city can look at other jurisdictions to see how bans or taxes on single-use plastic have worked.

“The alternative products exist, and we would not exactly be trailblazing,” MacShane said.

Some officials expressed skepticism regarding a ban. That included Alderman Roger Wilson, who said he researched Baltimore’s efforts to introduce a single-use plastic ban and how it had not been finalized yet.

Wilson added that a ban might adversely affect families on a fixed income.

Councilman Steve McKay (R) said the work group needs to not just look at a ban, but the broader issue of single-plastic use. Just implementing a ban would be bad public policy, he said.

McKay added that giving people incentives to recycle and reuse plastic bags might be a better approach — similar to bottle deposit programs used in other states.

Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak agreed with McKay that the work group needs a broader approach, and the need to incentivize the public to be environmentally conscious.

“It can’t just be a stick, it’s got to be a carrot,” she said, adding that city and county government need to better educate the public about what is recyclable and what is not.

Earlier in the conversation, Hagen said the work group should focus on the issue as a whole, not just a ban on plastic bags.

“My first thought, like anything, is how’s it working with other places. ... I would definitely not start with them assuming we’re only talking about plastic bags,” he said.

Councilman Phil Dacey (R) said he was skeptical of a proposed ban, saying it’s up to individuals if they want to use plastic bags. He added that they’re convenient for people, as some reuse them for shopping or to clean up after their pets.

Dacey added that it wasn’t right for the government to coerce people into changing their behavior. But MacShane partially disagreed, noting the impact that plastic is having on the environment.

“It may require some inconvenient changes. ... I think we can take some logical local steps,” MacShane said.

Some local business leaders said Wednesday they were receptive to a single-use plastic ban, be it on bags or other items. Bob Thompson, general manager of Common Market, said his business uses bags that are partially made of recyclable material. He said he is open to Hagen’s proposal.

“I guess I believe there’s so much plastic in the environment, and anything we do to reduce its use is a good thing,” Thompson said.

Michelle Schaffer, owner of the North Market Pop Shop in Frederick, said her business uses compostable material for everything but its hot dogs, which are still served or packaged in plastic.

She understands the concerns of those who reuse plastic bags, but added that reducing plastic use is a good move environmentally.

Alex Little, manager of the Food Lion supermarket in Crestwood Plaza, said his company has been moving toward greener alternatives, in part because of the rising cost of plastic versus other materials.

Little added, however, that roughly 50 to 60 percent of shoppers at that location walk to the store, and use plastic bags because they are convenient. But he added that he wasn’t opposed to a ban.

At County Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer’s (D) request, Hagen will start gauging interest in the work group in the coming weeks.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(21) comments

KellyAlzan

Stupidity.

gardenwhimsey

Other grocery stores could adopt the way Aldi operates. They do not provide bags nor do they bag your items. They put your items into an empty cart and you proceed to an area where you bag your own groceries or take the cart to your vehicle and transfer your groceries to your vehicle. As to straws, I'm old enough to remember when paper straws were provided at restaurants, etc. They don't hold up to the end of the drink. The cup holders McDonald's currently uses are "environmentally friendly" but are very flimsy. If your drink cups sweat or if the lid is not set correctly and their cup carriers get damp, the carrier will melt in your hand. Sometimes "environmentally friendly" just isn't practical.

StrengthofLiberty

Committees. Bans. That's the democrat for you. This in face of the facts about plastics contamination, and their place in the exisitng and future economic models. How about thinking of single use plastic/s a common irritant. Unacceptable in our public spaces because of the harm plastic/s cause. Envison plastics as if it were a statute. One so virulent that its presence must be, moved to a cemetary perhaps. Or at least in the hands of those who will re-process, re-purpose and actually create something Made in the USA. In that context - Ya' know - you could - like - vote right now. Spare us the committee and ban rhertoic. I have to share this with Mr. Darcy. I was taken the circus for the first and last time in my now ancient life - at the age of five. I don't know how much time lapsed before I pulled on my father's shirt sleeve asking to leave. "I just don't like this." When we got in the car - he asked what made me dislike it so much. "Clowns" - Stop confusing liberty/freedom with the naieve ideal of do what you want democracy. And if all else fails - Tax - tax - tax - the plastic/s single use - like a toll road.

shiftless88

I guess your life is ancient because much of what you likely learned in school has apparently been forgotten.

shiftless88

start with the charge for plastic bags at stores. That has helped in other areas in this region. It is a good start.

Jleftwich

I agree there needs to be an effort at educating the public about plastic bags. I was not aware that plastic bags were no longer recyclable - there is a diagram on the county-provided blue recycling carts showing what is / is not recyclable. One of the graphics show "Plastic Bags (bagged together)" as being allowed. Now, maybe I missed a mailer that was sent out updating the policy? But I'm sure I have been placing plastic bags in the recycling cart long after the policy was changed.

gardenwhimsey

They say it is because the plastic bags get tangled in their machines. They ask that you take your plastic bags to one of the local pickup areas. All of the grocery stores have collection bins for used plastic.

MD1756

Education is not enough. Just look at how many people throw their trash and cigarette butts out of their vehicles. They know better but just don't care. Make it impact their wallet and maybe they'll care more. I agree, don't necessarily ban but possibly tax, and certainly place a much higher tax on cigarettes and use the money for health care and the environment to help pay for the impact of secondary smoke from smokers and fires caused by discarded cigarette butts.

BunnyLou

People are going to litter no matter what is used. I would prefer a system that does not tax or charge the consumer for use. Charging for reusable bags or taxing single use plastic bags hurts low income families. I guess Kai and company don’t care about the little people. Dems, what they don’t want to ban they want to make mandatory.

shiftless88

Bunny; you have zero credibility in defense of low-income families. You have proven long ago that you do NOT care about their plight and only use them as a political wedge, not out of genuine interest.

Comment deleted.
shiftless88

Name one piece of legislation that Repubs have championed in the past twenty years whose primary target was improving the lives of the less fortunate.

shiftless88

Bunny; you have not looked at the unemployment trend lines starting in about 2010. One, large, constant decline in unemployment, most of which was under Obama. If you can point to some sort of inflection point where things changed and the slope increased (well, decreased I guess since it is a negative slope) then let us see the analysis. Or just continue to delude yourself.

shiftless88

I also note, Bunny, that you propose no solution of your own. Typical.

BunnyLou

I offered my opinion above. It would seem obvious that my position is the status quo with emphasis on recycling. Why is it that your first thought is always tax it or have the consumer pay more for it? What does that solve? It just gives more money to the state to waste which I am against.

shiftless88

Bunny; we have seen that status quo with emphasis on recycling is not working. So, you either believe it is not a problem or you just do not want to do anything about it. Why do you think that paying for the bag is my "first thought"? I have been a strong recycling advocate for decades, but that alone is not working.

public-redux

If neither taxpayers nor consumers pay for something, then who does? Sounds like you are advocating for Free Universal Plastic Bags for All. You must be supporting Bernie or Pocahontas.

walter3rd

Series of investigative articles recently published. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/17/recycled-plastic-america-global-crisis

DickD

There are machines that use plastic to seal food for storage in the refrigerator or freezer, would they be added? And why just worry about plastic? How about aluminum foil?

micky

How about single use plastic bottles added to the discussion ??

riccicc

I support the recycling of single use plastic bags.

Vegan

I support the single use plastic ban.

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