by Jared Littmann
HB 314 (Plastic Bag Reduction Act) is the proposed Maryland legislation that would ban, after 18 months, single use carryout plastic bags. I support this legislation for the following reasons:
- The plastic bag ban is the right thing for the environment as we need to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.
- It is the right thing for the economy as Climate Change is causing unprecedented damage with business interruptions or even destroying homes and businesses. Plus, this would reduce the money local governments are currently spending on managing plastic bags that gum up the refuse waste stream.
- It is the right thing to do for the community as businesses set the example for our communities.
- It is also the right thing to do for good governance. A state solution is preferred to differing city and county legislation.
- However, there are implementation issues to consider that I’ll get to below.
Reducing plastic use is imperative. Climate Change is real, and it is happening. One way we can address this on a local level is by purposefully reducing our use of plastics, especially single use. However, purchases from online shippers involves far more packaging than disposable shopping bags at retailers. I applaud Delegate Lierman, Annapolis Green, and Oceana for also working on that issue.
Good governance is important here. Right now, various Maryland counties have addressed this issue differently and various local jurisdictions have done or have tried to the same. For businesses, uniformity is helpful. I don’t like mandatory bag fees, which, fortunately, this bill does not include. I’m also pleased to see that the Bill leaves it to the individual business to decide whether and how much to charge for bags and experiment with customer behavior.
Helpfully, the proposed legislation provides two three-month waivers for a retailer to temporarily switch back to disposable plastic bags. This is important if the unavailability of paper bags makes using them impossible or prohibitively expensive. The wording of the waiver concerns me because getting a waiver before switching back to plastic may not be practical. Further, the waiver is only applicable if the issue is unique to the business. However, some issues – like paper bag unavailability – could be common to many retailers. There has been a shortage of raw product in paper bag industry. The industry is significantly impacted by plastic reduction legislation around the country. Every mill is at full capacity. Suppliers are working aggressively to mitigate risks to supply chains but are going to hit some bumps. The two temporary waivers in the bill may not be sufficient if paper bag supplies run out.
A state-wide plastic carryout bag ban is a great next step in the fight against Climate Change and protecting the Maryland economy, but consideration needs to be given to reducing plastic in other forms and reducing reliance on paper bags as well.
I’m grateful to Delegate Lierman, Senator Augustine, Speaker Jones, and President Ferguson for working to pass this bill. I hope everyone will call Senate President Ferguson and their state representatives to encourage them to pass this bill. Retail businesses like mine want to reduce plastic pollution, but we need your help. We need the statewide standard this bill provides. Thank you!
Editor’s note: Jared Littmann is a former Annapolis Alderman from Ward 5. He owns K&B True Value, which carries hundreds of eco-friendly products. He brings his perspective to this issue, not only as a successful businessman and former alderman, but also as an attorney who was trained in environmental law. Mr. Littmann is a Founding One Hundred supporter of Annapolis Green.