Cambridge City Councillor Dennis Carlone is joining with sustainability advocates and local members of the Massachusetts Sierra Club and calling for a vote on the city's Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance. If adopted, it would make Cambridge the largest city on the East Coast to ban plastic bags.
In a letter addressed to his city council colleagues, Carlone explained that the plastic bag ban will serve "to protect our waterways, reduce waste, and protect the marine environment." Carlone continued:
Plastic checkout bags should be outlawed because they are typically made from a polyethylene that is not biodegradable. Instead, the bags break into small pieces, called microplastics, which are consumed by animals and litter the ground. The bags have been shown to release toxins into the soil and water, threatening the food chain and presenting a serious danger to both humans and animals.
Work on Cambridge's plastic bag ban started in 2007, when the City Council asked the City Manager to "to investigate banning disposable plastic bags..."
Seven years later, the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance appeared to be on its way to passage in late 2013, when it was advanced out of committee and forwarded to the 2014-15 city council with a favorable recommendation, thanks to the leadership of former City Councillor and current State Representative Marjorie Decker.
But according to Phil Sego of the Massachusetts Sierra Club, a "competing" bill has been introduced, one that allows unlimited exemptions...(and) would even allow oxo-degradable (photo-fragmentable) bags, which pose an enormous environmental threat."
If the council opts to proceed with this alternate bill, it would likely require a new round of committee hearings, essentially restarting a hearing process that was already completed last year. In his communication to the city council this afternoon, Carlone made it clear that he'd prefer to finish the job on Monday. In Carlone's words:
Since 2007, the City Council has submitted no less than eight policy orders to advance the goal of banning plastic bags. With leadership from former City Councillor and current State Representative Marjorie Decker, and with support from the Massachusetts Sierra Club, the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance is now before us after years of study and public discussion. As other municipalities and states move to enact plastic bag bans of their own, the time has come for the City of Cambridge to be a leader in the effort to change the “single-use, throwaway culture” that contributes to the problem of global climate change.
Monday's city council meeting will be held at CRLS in the Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room, 459 Broadway. The meeting will open with public comment at 5:30 pm. Residents wishing to testify are encouraged to sign up by calling (617) 349-4280 between the hours of 9 am and 3 pm on Monday, December 15. Alternatively, residents may show up at the Attles Meeting Room between 5:30 and 6 pm to sign up in person. Everyone is welcome to speak to the council for up to three minutes on this matter, or email the entire council at firstname.lastname@example.org and CC the City Clerk as well: email@example.com.