Baltimore City Likely to Pass Plastic Bag Ban

Baltimore Sun article (2019-08-02) reported that a super-majority of the Baltimore City Council and Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young currently supports legislation that would ban plastic bags at checkout counters and impose a 5-cent charge on any other type of bag provided. The legislation is intended to reduce litter and plastic waste and encourage consumers to bring their own reusable bags when shopping.

The article noted that the City Council has considered plastic bag bans eight times since 2006. The Council passed a ban in 2014 that was subsequently vetoed by then Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. The article stated that 10 of the 15 Council members currently sponsoring the bill and several of the other members have indicated their support. Council Member Bill Henry is the lead sponsor.

As currently drafted, the proposed legislation would ban the use of plastic bags in retail stores one year after passage. Any other bags, such as paper, that the retailer provides is subject to a 5-cent fee. The retailer keeps one cent and sends 4 cents to the City. Exceptions are provided for produce, baked goods, prescription drugs, newspapers, dry-cleaning, and purchases made using public benefits such as food stamps.

The article included comments of support from environmental and trash reduction groups and concern from some retailor stakeholders. From the article:

“We don’t want to just drive increased consumption of paper bags,” said Ashley Van Stone, executive director of Trash Free Maryland. “We want to drive [waste] reduction across the board. And we want to see plastic bags out of our environment.”

Jennie Romer, an attorney with the Surfrider Foundation who gathers information on bans at, said plastic prohibition isn’t the most impactful element of the policies — fees are what prompt shoppers to bring their own bags. …

[Maryland Retailers Association Executive Director Cailey Locklair] Tolle said she would rather see the city follow the lead of California, which imposed its 10-cent bag fee only on grocery, convenience and liquor stores, leaving clothing and hardware stores exempt. …

Retailers are frustrated at the thought that they could be forced to absorb most or all of the cost of the bag fee. [Jerry Gordon, owner of Eddie’s Market in Charles Village,] said he estimates he’ll pay 8 cents for each paper bag he buys, 6 cents more than he pays for each plastic bag and an extra $20,000 a year.

The article noted that two states and hundreds of counties and municipalities have outlawed bags and also provided an overview of what happened in Montgomery County after that county banned bags.

Learn more about Maryland’s recent efforts to address challenging waste materials related to food, such as polystyrene containers and plastic straws, at the 2019 MACo Summer Conference. The panel “Delicious or Deadly? A Food Safety Update” will also discuss recent changes to private kitchen requirements and cottage food labeling. The panel will take place on August 16, 2019, from 2:15 pm – 3:15 pm.
Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: