Cambridge Plastic Bag Ban Passes 8-1

plastic bag banCambridge says goodbye to plastic bags. Photo by Great Beyond/Flickr.

Cambridge just became the largest city on the east coast to enact a plastic bag ban.

On Monday night, Cambridge City Councilors voted 8-1 to pass the Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance, which bans single-use plastic bags. The council has been trying to pass a bag ban for more than seven years.

“I think it’s great news,” said City Councilor and Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee Dennis Carlone.

According to Carlone, the council has spent the last several months hammering out the details of 13 amendments to the bill, including the thickness of bags that would be allowed. The one dissenting vote came from a councilor who believed that the bag ban would disproportionately impact small business owners, but the council voted to increase the time businesses have to comply with the ordinance from six months to a year. If a business is having difficulty adhering to the new standards at that time, they will be able to petition the Department of Public Works for an additional extension.

“The goal was to get something good, and do it in a way that doesn’t hurt small businesses,” Carlone added. “This is a good compromise on that issue.”

Councilor Marc McGovern proposed one change to the legislation—which also passed last night—requesting that the City Manager purchase 10,000 reusable bags for low-income and elderly Cambridge residents. Students at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School will be asked to design a logo for these bags.

“Even three dollars for a bag—or ten dollars, in some cases—is an issue for people,” said Carlone. “It was a good idea on [McGovern’s] part.”

Ultimately, Carlone said he’s hopeful that this ordinance will lead to other cities and towns adopting similar bans. Eventually, he’d like to see Massachusetts go the way of California, where so many different bag bans had been instated that the state had to step in and make a uniform set of laws.

“I had a meeting this morning with state reps on a different issue entirely, and they brought up what we had hoped, which is that the more towns and cities that pass it, the more likely it is there will be a state ban,” Carlone said.

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