The Frederick County Council and Frederick Board of Aldermen are set to explore a ban on plastic bags at an upcoming meeting.
County Councilman Kai Hagen (D) is opening the discussion of a plastic bag ban, something that has gained steam in cities nationwide and countries around the globe. He prefers a ban on some single-use plastics, including bags, versus a tax — like the 5-cent tax on plastic bags that has been set in Montgomery County and Washington, D.C.
Hagen said this week he isn’t introducing a legislative proposal on Wednesday, but rather starting a discussion of the issue.
He thinks a work group might be created to explore the issue, and determine whether a ban is feasible at the county level.
“It wouldn’t surprise me, based on the research of what I’ve done, for the group to come up with some sort of ban on single-use plastics,” Hagen said.
In March, the European Parliament voted to ban single-use plastics including straws, food containers and other items by 2021. Plastic bag bans are enforced in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Maryland took steps to address some of the issues related to single-use materials by approving a ban this year on food and drink containers made of foam.
Hagen said he has discussed the proposal with Councilman Jerry Donald (D) and council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D), and that aldermen Roger Wilson (D) and Ben MacShane (D) support exploring the idea.
Donald said he supports looking into the ban. When he drives up and down the Golden Mile, he often sees discarded plastic bags along the road, he said.
He used paper bags a lot when he was growing up, he said, which could be an alternative to single-use plastic bags.
“The question remains, how difficult would it be for businesses to move away from plastic bags?” Donald said. “That’s the biggest thing I think we have to ask.”
An opponent of the idea is County Councilman Phil Dacey (R). He said he wouldn’t “absolutely oppose” a ban, but there are drawbacks.
Citizens reuse plastic bags to clean up after their pets, to line smaller trash cans at home.
Dacey used them for “diaper duty” when his two daughters, Kira and Harper, were growing up.
“I think there’s a lot of unintended consequences that arise that make it less clear that it has an environmental benefit to ban single-use plastic bags,” Dacey said. “I’m not in favor of making life difficult for people in Frederick County. ... That’s what, in my view, a ban would do.”
Hagen understands there are possible negatives to a ban. He noted possible medical devices and equipment in hospitals that might use single-use plastics similar to those in bags. But he also believes there are cost-effective alternatives, such as using cornstarch or other materials in bags.
Any proposed legislation wouldn’t be introduced until the fall or winter months, Hagen said. A work group would probably take at least a month to review the issue.
That work group would consist of a variety of stakeholders, not only those who would support a ban.
“My guess is, as we get rolling, it will get a lot more attention, and that’s a good thing,” Hagen said. “We want the public to be as engaged as much as possible.”