The global debate on the feasibility of banning plastic bags continues to gain momentum, as broader developments on global warming and environmental conservation gain center stage. The recent 12-0 vote by the Boston City Council against single-use plastic bags has again brought the issue to the limelight. Massachusetts has been grappling with waste disposable problems for a long time, and the capital of the state has been facing the brunt.
According to reports, nearly 350 million single-use plastic bags are used in Boston every year, which puts a huge strain on the limited landfills in the city. The pollution is further compounded due to the release of the toxic gases into the atmosphere when these plastic bags are burned in incinerators. Authorities in Boston have been mulling over enacting stringer regulations on the use of plastic bags, and now the decision to ban the single-use plastic bags rests with Mayor Marty Walsh.
If the Mayor signs on the proposal, Boston will join 59 other cities and towns in Massachusetts that have an ordinance on single-use plastic bags. The approval of the proposal will also mean that businesses will start charging customers for reusable, recyclable, and compostable bags. Currently, the Mayor is reviewing the proposal; it is worthwhile to mention that last year, the Mayor opposed a similar version on the grounds that it would negative impact small-scale businesses. He also cited the impact on low-income families for the ban.
If the proposal is approved, there will likely be a one-year implementation period for businesses and customers to make the necessary adjustments. During that time, the council members of Boston are likely to work with the stakeholders to increase the availability of reusable bags that will be offered free of charge to consumers. Under the current proposal, businesses will be charging five cents for reusable bags, the proceeds of which will be kept by the businesses.
Councillor Matt O’Malley, who played a key role in drafting the proposal said that the ordinance from multiple cities was referred to before it was put forward to the Mayor. He also praised community members for putting in the hard work to raise awareness about the issue, calling the efforts “Sisyphean”.
Although the proposal to ban the single-use plastic bags is finding support from most quarters, the American Progressive Bag Alliance has urged the Mayor to veto the bill, on the grounds that the ordinance will indirectly lead to usage of products that were “far worse for the environment”. The move could also hurt the interests of raw material suppliers and manufacturers in the city and the US. The manufacture of plastic bags entails the use of various raw materials, such as low-density polyethylene (LDPE). Any move to ban single-use plastic bags can hurt the interests of the manufactures.
As the final decision rests with Mayor Walsh, it will be interesting to see if Boston joins the other Massachusetts cities in banning single-use plastic bags, or if proposal will be vetoed by the Mayor.
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