Baltimore City Council Delays Action on Plastic Bag Ban Pending Further Bag Fee Discussions

Baltimore Sun article (2019-09-23) reported that a Baltimore City Council committee delayed sending a  proposed retailer plastic bag ban to a full Council vote due to ongoing discussions on the appropriate fee for paper bags and how much of the fee should go to the retailers.

The article stated that the proposed ban was introduced over this summer and included a ban on plastic bags and a 5-cent fee for other bags. The bill provided that retailers could keep 1 cent to recoup costs for providing more expensive bags. However, rather than sending the bill to a formal vote, the committee decided to hold a public discussion on the bag fee portion of the bill.

Plastic bags are a major litter source for the City and can cause harm to wildlife and the environment. Montgomery County, Washington DC, and California have enacted bans.

From the article:

“I don’t think there was a majority of votes today to go one way or another,” Democratic Councilman Eric Costello, chairman of the judiciary committee, said after the committee meeting. The lawmakers did tackle other aspects of the legislation, including removing a bag fee exemption for those on public assistance. …

“Plastic bags need to be banned,” said Lester Davis, [Mayor Bernard “Jack”] Young’s chief lobbyist. But he said it’s hard to predict what proposal might make it to the mayor’s desk. “I think the council’s deadlocked.” …

Retailers are concerned the cost of alternatives to plastic bags could eat into their profits. Grocery stores, in particular, operate on a 1% to 3% profit margin, so any increase in costs could make it harder for them to operate in the city, said Cailey Locklair Tolle, president of the Maryland Retailers Association.

The article noted that the City has considered eight plastic bag ban proposals since 2006, with none passing. The Council will take up the current ban proposal at an October 7 work session.