Town Meeting: Plastic Bag Ban Vote

February 2, 2019 By Carol Britton Meyer

The Cleaner Greener Hingham Committee is embarking on an educational program to spread the word about a warrant article it’s proposing for the April  22 Town Meeting that would institute a ban on single-use plastic bags.

The committee’s overriding message is that while plastic bags are “convenient, recyclable, and part of everyday life,” only seven percent of them get recycled while the rest take many years to break down. They wash ashore and choke marine life, resulting in what the committee calls plastic bag pollution.  “They also break down into microplastics that humans may be consuming unknowingly,” committee member Andrew Ayer said.

If passed, Hingham would join the 91 other Massachusetts cities and towns that already have bans in place, including Cohasset, Duxbury, and Marshfield.

The ban, if approved,  targets the thin plastic bags available at grocery stores and pharmacies but not produce, newspaper, or dry cleaning bags.

Ayer and fellow committee member Stephen Jiranek explained why the ban is being proposed at a recent Hingham Downtown Association meeting. The committee has also held public meetings at the library to introduce the proposal to as many citizens as possible and to promote the use of sustainably-produced reusable bags but not paper bags, even though they break down better than plastic bags, because of their carbon footprint.

“We’re not trying to hurt businesses,” said committee member Andrew Ayer. “We see ourselves as partners with you all.” The proposed ban met with mixed reviews. While some HDA members support the proposal, others have concerns. “Reusable bags can cost four to five times more than the bags we’re using now,”  said RSVP owner Judy Varney.

The good news  is that Hingham shops that have already stocked up on plastic bags — some bearing their shop’s names/logos –can apply for a waiver from the board of health, which if granted would allow them to use up their existing stock before the ban would apply to them. Some downtown Hingham businesses already provide reusable bags.

AZ Studio owner Christina Jans recalled that quite a few years ago reusable bags bearing the names of businesses that were HDA members  were available in downtown Hingham and the idea was floated that this might be a good idea to revitalize.

The next Cleaner Greener Hingham informational meeting about this issue will be held Thursday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. in the Whiton Room of the Hingham Public Library, 66 Leavitt St.

The board of health would be the enforcing agency, with penalties for shops that continue to use single-use plastic bags subject to penalties that progress from a written warning to fines that escalate each day the violation continues.

Stricter reusable plastic bag legislation will be considered this summer and if passed would supersede any local ban regulations.

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