The Baltimore City Council gave final approval to a bill which would prohibit retail stores from giving customers plastic bags at checkout and charge a 5 cent fee for other bags provided at checkout.

That bill is now headed to the Mayor for signature.

I love that they are banning plastic bags from stores…I really dislike the idea of charging shoppers a fee for accepting other bags and giving 80% of that fee to the retailers providing those products. This is how you can get a bill very right and very wrong all at the same time.

Baltimore City Councilwoman McCray opposed the five cent fee on customers for each paper bag they use saying “It’s an unnecessary and regressive tax on low-income residents, on working families on a fixed income”.

Here in Howard County, the Howard County Council held public testimony on CB64-2019…a bill that would charge a punitive fee on shoppers for accepting plastic bags from retailers at checkout (I know that is not the title of the bill…but is accurate in what it does).

I was not surprised that various interest groups supporting this plastic bag fee come out to testify in favor of this legislation. You can view all of the testimony starting at the 3:59:15 mark of the video.

Here are some things the Howard County Council probably did not hear last night:

  • This is a punitive fee on shoppers while doing nothing to prevent the stores from providing plastic bags at checkout.
  • Stores have no incentive to stop providing plastic bags at checkout…if anything the 1 cent for every 10 bags they provide is an incentive for them to provide more plastic bags at checkout (watch the double bagging practices coming soon to a store near you in Howard County. I do not know for a fact this will happen…just ranting a bit here).
  • The fact that Baltimore City just passed a ban and Westminster, Chestertown and Takoma Park all have previously passed bans of plastic bags…are we following the goal of our County Executive by “Making Howard County the most environmentally friendly jurisdiction in the state and region is a goal of my administration…”? I think not.
  • And finally…after implementation, will the number of bags leaving stores significantly reduce? Let’s look at data from Montgomery County:

In 2013 (the first full year of the fee) the number of bags “Taxed” was 60,421,676.

In 2018 the number of bags “Taxed” was 64,149,805.

So far in 2019 (through October) the number of bags taxed is 55,896,833 (so on pace for over 61,000,000 bags taxed for the year). Click the image above to view all of the REAL data from Montgomery County Government on dataMontgomery.

Someone please show me the deep decrease in the number of bags being taxed and leaving stores in that jurisdiction?

If this really worked we should see that “60 million bags” leaving stores drop significantly (say even drop to “50 million bags”) by adding this punitive fee on shoppers for not bringing reusable bags with them to stores after implementation of the fee. That data does not exist.

I remain fully against this legislation. I would fully support a plastic bag ban similar to what other jurisdictions have put in place. A ban (even with exemptions similar to what Westminster passed) would accomplish the overall goal…significantly less bags leaving stores and coming into our jurisdiction…is that not what this is all about? Maybe it is about something else all together.

Because of HCPSS redistricting most people in the county do not know this is happening right now or that it may be decided upon soon. I am not seeing a lot of social media posts letting followers know about this…not even from those that have submitted this legislation (to be fair…Councilmember Opel Jones has made 2 Facebook posts on this topic).

I have been writing about this topic for more than a year now…if interested in data and facts on this topic…read some of these articles:  https://scotteblog.com/?s=bag+tax

I was unable to attend the public testimony session last evening but I will be submitting my thoughts via email to the council in the near future.

Scott E

3 COMMENTS

  1. I was at the testimony last night (knitting away!). I talked to some of the less plastic please members and asked if they would support an amendment that would transition the tax to a ban after 3-5 years so people have time to change their habits gradually, but also recognize that they will have to change them regardless.

    Howard county is also supposed to be the “proof in the pudding” that a ban or tax could work state wide, according to one woman who testified and has been pushing for a while.

    I will be submitting more testimony asking for such an amendment. I also believe we need programs that provide reusable bags to those in need at the point of sale, so this doesn’t have to be a regressive tax on those barely making ends meet in the county.

  2. Derp, I forgot to mention that less plastic please hadn’t considered an amendment that shifted the tax to a ban. The member I conversed with thought that there were no good reasons to not ask for such an amendment. Their whole premise is based on people needing gradual change

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