Plastic Bag Ban Update

Most Cantabrigians favor thoughtful environmental policy that seeks to preserve and improve our natural surroundings. We know that parks, gardens, and the planting and maintenance of trees all contribute to the beauty, vitality and peacefulness of our city. These are places to reflect, have a picnic, kick a soccer ball, or simply to escape from the city for a while. But what is often overlooked or put on the "back burner" are environmental issues that may not pose an immediate risk but do in fact present longer term danger. For example, gas leaks in our community affect our air quality and potentially endanger our overall infrastructure; leaf blowers affect micro ecosystems, worker's health, and often times our own mental health; sourcing 100% renewable energy so as to curb our use of fossil fuels; and making new commercial construction be net-zero compliant, again, as a way to curb climate changing producing gases-- all of these issues need to be dealt with now if we wish to prevent more harmful damage down the road. 

Last term, my former legislative aide, Mike Connolly raised the idea of pursuing a Plastic Bag Ban. We quickly realized together that it would be a challenge, after all, it was an effort which had been undertaken by several previous mayors and councillors with limited success. Plastic bags were convenient, easy, free and did not pose an immediate harmful threat to the environment, however, they did have very severe and dangerous long term consequences. Plastic bags are typically made from a polyethylene which is not biodegradable. Instead of decomposing, the bags break down into small, toxic fragments called microplastics, which are consumed by animals and litter the ground. Ultimately, the toxins from these bags make their way back into our food chain. The purpose of the Plastic Bag Ban was to protect our waterways, reduce waste, and protect marine wildlife. It was our view that plastic bags should be regulated and restricted.

You may've remembered seeing the local news outlets pick up the story. Boston Magazine reported here:

And BostInno reported here:

Ultimately, we were able to secure the votes required for a strong Plastic Bag Ban and I am happy to report, that after two months of implementation, the ban appears to be working as planned. Department of Public Works Commissioner, Owen O'Riordan, provided an update on the ban after two months, which is available for download and viewing here:

Commissioner O'Riordan reports that customers have adopted smoothly to the change, that grocery stores have seen a reduction of between 50%-80% in paper bag usage, that there's been a positive response from Cambridge Local First businesses, and that many businesses have actually seen cost savings due to the ordinance. I am very happy with the Plastic Bag Ban and the early signs of its effectiveness.

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