Plastic bag ban may soon be considered by Baltimore County Council

There’s a push in Baltimore County to ban or restrict the plastic bags you get at grocery stores and other businesses.

Four of the county council’s seven members said they favored the action, saying something needed to be done to bring the bags under control as they flew from tree branches and clogged up stream beds.

Rob Frier of the Greater Baltimore Group of the Sierra Club recently spent time collecting plastic bags from a ravine between Reisterstown Road and a Target parking lot in Owings Mills.

“It’s not even a Target bag,” Frier said. “So it did, by the way.”

There was a plastic bag next to a deer carcass, a gruesome scene of exposed fur and ribs.

“But there’s a big plastic bag over there,” Frier said as he assessed the situation. “I’m a little anxious. I don’t know, maybe I can access it somehow. I want to get it, I can’t let this go.

There’s nothing unique about the plastic bags in this ravine. The Sierra Club estimates that Baltimore County residents use nearly one million plastic bags a day. Frier said the vast majority of them are used once and thrown away.

“Some of it goes to landfill,” Frier said. “Part of it is incinerated and we have the opportunity to breathe that. And much of it, what ends up on the side of the road will eventually decompose and end up in waterways.

Proponents of bag bans say it’s easier to get them passed locally because the oil lobby is much stronger at the federal and state level. Petroleum is used to make plastic bags.

Attempts to ban plastic bags statewide have failed.

In November, Reisterstown resident Marie LaPorte told the county council it needed to act.

“The citizens of Baltimore County need you to step up,” LaPorte told the council. “The days of business as usual must end now. Stop telling us you care about the environment. Start showing us.

The majority of council seems interested in doing so.

First District Democratic Councilman Tom Quirk said the council should consider a bag ban like Baltimore City’s or have stores charge you for each bag. In Howard County, each plastic bag costs you a penny. Quirk thinks a majority of county residents would support the council banning or restricting bags.

Quirk said, “Are they all gonna like it? Probably not. But it’s just a change in behavior. It’s like going to the grocery store, bringing reusable bags. It makes sense.

Quirk would like to see legislation in the next few months. So would Republican Councilor David Marks, who said the devil was in the details, but a bag ban should be considered. Marks said it was not a partisan issue, adding that it was especially important to people who live along the waterfront in eastern Baltimore County.

“These are very conservative areas, heavily Republican areas,” Marks said. “But they see the impact of this type of pollution on our waterways.

Republican Councilman Wade Kach said he favors banning plastic bags.

Democratic adviser Izzy Patoka said he was open to the idea of ​​restricting them.

“I think we should take a close look at this issue,” Patoka said. “I have been working closely for, maybe six months, with some of the stakeholders who are very concerned about the impact of plastic bags on the environment.”

Two other council members, Democrat Cathy Bevins and Republican Todd Crandell declined to comment on the issue. The Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce also declined to comment.

In a statement, County Executive Johnny Olszewski touted his administration’s environmental efforts, such as resuming glass recycling, expanding the county’s commitment to renewable energy and growing trees. . But he stopped short of endorsing the restriction or ban of plastic bags.

“Going forward, we will continue to seek opportunities to improve our environment, and we look forward to engaging with the county council on any policies they may support in pursuit of this critical goal,” Olszewski wrote. .

Council President Julian Jones, a Democrat, said he saw no movement on a ban on plastic bags any time soon. Jones said they needed to take the time to hear from all sides.

Jones said: “Let’s talk to retailers to find out, okay, what it will cost. Is there a cost? I do not know.”

There is a cost, according to Zachary Taylor, director of the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance, which represents the industry and lobbies against the bag ban. Taylor said the poor are being hit by the cost of paying more for reusable bags or paying fees.

“They’re the ones who are going to spend a buck or two every time they forget their bags,” Taylor said. “And that can add up pretty quickly, especially when food prices are skyrocketing.”

Taylor said the industry employs thousands of people and plastic bags can be properly recycled.

The Baltimore County Recycling Program does not accept them because they jam machines.

Bryce K. Locke