On Thursday evening, the city council's Ordinance Committee voted unanimously to forward a strong version of the proposed ban on plastic checkout bags to the full council with a positive recommendation.
It is now expected that this reconciled version, renamed the "Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance," will come before the council for a final vote in a matter of weeks. If adopted, it would make Cambridge the largest city on the East Coast to ban single-use, plastic checkout bags, completing a process that began when the city first started studying the issue in 2007.
Acting in his capacity as Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, Councillor Carlone led his colleagues through a series of votes to reconcile differences between two versions of the pending legislation; here are some of the highlights from the meeting:
- Amendment Number 4, which sought to create an exemption for take-out food restaurants, failed on a vote of 1 in favor and 4 against.
- Amendment Number 5, which would have relaxed the definition of a "reusable" plastic bag, also failed, by a vote of 2 in favor and 3 against. As it stands, the proposed ordinance states that a plastic bag must have a minimum thickness of 3.0 mils to qualify as reusable. A similar definition is used in Newton, Newburyport, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Marblehead.
- Amendment Number 6 was adopted, allowing for compostable plastic bags that meet ASTMD6400 standards and are approved by the Commissioner of Public Works.
- Amendment Number 8A was also adopted; this amendment requires that retail establishments charge a fee for any paper bags or compostable bags that are provided at the point of sale. This would make Cambridge the first municipality in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to require that retailers charge a fee for paper bags. However, the City does not plan to collect this fee. Instead, retailers will keep it.
Here are materials from Thursday's meeting...
- Original Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance
- Revised/Proposed Amendments (considered on March 12)
- Redlined Version of Ordinance with proposed Amendments
- Letter from City Manager (regarding legal question of fee-for-bags)
- Draft/proposed regulations
Councillor Carlone's most recent statement on the plastic bag ban is available here on his blog; he also spoke with Boston Magazine late last year on the push to get this legislation passed; click here for that story.
Residents wishing comment on the pending legislation may email the full city council at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy the City Clerk at email@example.com to be included in the official record.