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Baltimore says 'no thanks' to D.C. plastic bag approach

It appears, for now, Baltimore will not be joining the District in implementing a bag tax.

After the District's 5-cent bag tax law took effect, Baltimore City Councilman Bill Henry proposed a 25-cent bag tax for Charm City.

But the Baltimore Sun reports a Baltimore City Council committee instead endorsed a compromise that would require most stores to stop offering plastic bags unless a customer asks for one.

"I think we're going to be able to do something no one else has been able to do - pass a measure dealing with plastic bags that is acceptable to the business community and to the environmental community," Council member James B. Kraft told The Sun.

But if you are hoping the District will become a regional trendsetter on this issue, there is still a chance the Maryland General Assembly could approve a 5-cent bag statewide. But, as outlined in a Washington Post editorial Wednesday morning, the prospects aren't great that the measure will be pass both the Maryland House and Senate before the legislature adjourns next month.

--Tim Craig

By Tim Craig  |  March 17, 2010; 2:36 PM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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How about that. Asking the "shopper" if they would opt for a plastic alternative as opposed to shoving a tax down their throat if they don't. Way to go Baltimore Council.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | March 18, 2010 7:07 AM | Report abuse

Actually, concernedaboutdc, merchants will not be allowed to ask the customer if they want a bag unless that merchant only provides paper bags. The customer will have to ask the merchant for a plastic bag. But I agree, it is a better policy.

Posted by: dukiebiddle | March 18, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Most public officials across the nation (including those in Virginia and apparently Maryland) that have considered this policy option have determined that a new and confusing tax isn’t the most effective approach to combat litter – and that the simplest approach is best. In this case, the simplest approach is: recycling.

Lost in all this discussion is that plastic carryout bags are fully recyclable. Shoppers can bring their used bags back to the recycling bins at most large grocery and retail stores throughout Maryland, Virginia, and the District. And don’t forget to also bring back your dry-cleaning bags, plastic wraps from bread, paper towels and cases of soda, even The Washington Post newspaper bags. Bags and film wrap are a valuable material that is in demand to make things like durable backyard decking, home-building products, city park benches and new plastic bags.

Legislators don’t have to burden consumers with new taxes and bureaucracies. There’s no need to anger shoppers and confuse merchants, who spoke out strongly against this tax at the Maryland General Assembly hearings. Instead of raising taxes, public officials can help get the word out so shoppers recycle plastic bags and products wraps.

Shari Jackson
American Chemsitry Council
Progressive Bag Affiliates
Arlington, VA

Posted by: Shari_Jackson | March 18, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Shari Jackson, for including your affiliation. I disagree with your group's position, but I salute you for being open about who you represent.

not paid by anybody except the federal gubmint
checkbook member of the sierra club

Posted by: 20009matt | March 18, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Odd that a member of the Sierra Club would be against recycling. Or are you just against what Shari said because she works for ACC? Did you even read her post?

Here's the thing - the BIGGEST problem that plastic bags pose is from litter. But the plastic bag manufacturers are littering, and plastic bags are a very small percentage of all litter. Imposing a tax or fee on one item that sometimes ends up as litter does nothing except create problems. San Francisco banned bags and their bag litter actually increased because the ban also effectively killed the recycling programs.

As everyone knows, the largest global environmental issue we face is climate change, which is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Plastic is by far the most energy efficient and cleanest packaging to manufacture. Why all the fuss?

Ken Holmes
American Plastic Manufacturing
We make plastic bags. Proudly.

Posted by: Ken-Holmes | March 18, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

The proof is in the pudding people. Since our bag tax here in DC, which I have fully supported, litter has declined, there are fewer (many fewer) plastic bags in circulation. This is a net positive. The result is a 50% reduction in plastic bag usage. How can that not be a good thing? Baltimore messed up and weakly went with a compromise. DC for once did the right thing.

Posted by: sugarstreet | March 19, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

The proof is in the pudding, people.

Posted by: sugarstreet

Sure is. 50 business closing up shop in Georgetown.

People taking their business to Maryland and Virginia.

And unregulated plastic bags (dry cleaning????) still being given out for free.


Posted by: bs2004 | March 19, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, the bag fee killed those stores. Please. Stay within the realm of the probable.

The dry cleaner COVERS clothes in plastic, they are not really bags. But you're right, we need an alternative to those.

This is a start.

Posted by: sugarstreet | March 19, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

My big complaint about the bags is the litter aspect. They blow around and some end up in trees and can stay there for several years. It is unsightly.

Can't they be made more degradable? I thought there was a way to make plastic bag materials using corn starch that made them biodegrade quickly. Or, there should be a way to make them with a plastic that degrades quickly in the ultraviolet light of the sun.

As far as the saving-petroleum aspect, that is nothing. Not that much petroleum is used to make them, and I am sure recycling them ends up using more energy than it costs to make them new, when one takes into account transportation of the recycled bags, energy to recycle them, etc.

Posted by: BaracksTeleprompter | March 20, 2010 6:50 AM | Report abuse

Right. That is why reduce is the most ideal part of "reduce, reuse, recycle."

Recycling does take energy and often is not quote unquote cost effective. That is why it is best to not waste and use too much of one thing. And I think we can all agree that using a plastic bag for a roll of Rollos is truly a waste. And that is what is still done in Md and Va and what used to be done in DC.

Make something more efficient oftentimes, and we just use more of it. We leave lightbulbs on longer now than we used to, probably. So really, reduce, reduce and reduce.

There are, by the way, lots fewer bags in DC's trees now.

Posted by: sugarstreet | March 20, 2010 8:04 AM | Report abuse

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