Update on the Plastic Bag Ban

I want to say thank you to the hundreds of residents who flooded City Hall with emails in the run up to Monday's debate on the proposed ban on single-use plastic carryout bags in Cambridge, Mass.

To make a long story short, a number of my colleagues expressed their willingness to join with me in taking action to pass the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance on Monday night, but after much discussion, the council voted to accept a motion by the Vice Mayor to refer the matter back to the Ordinance Committee, in the hopes that we may reach a stronger consensus.

The next hearing on this matter is now scheduled for February 11 at 5:30 pm in the Sullivan Chamber.

The outcome of Monday's meeting was summarized in this post by the Massachusetts Sierra Club; additional commentary on the plastic bag ban appears here in BostInno.

Although this means that the final vote was delayed, we nevertheless made a real difference. That’s because prior to Monday's meeting, the City Administration had indicated that the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance, most recently referred to as the “Decker Bill,” was going to be replaced by a "new ordinance" that was problematic in certain key respects (it allowed for thinner plastic bags to be considered "reusable bags," and the Sierra Club feared that some of the new language would open the door to certain kinds of oxodegradable bags that are believed to pose an enormous threat to the environment).

But thanks to our efforts, we have managed to focus the conversation and save the original version of the bill. In Monday's meeting, I was clear that we should at least continue working on the original Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance, and if anything, we can consider positive amendments to the original bill (such as adding a fee for paper bags) without starting over from scratch with a new bill. At our next meeting on this topic on February 11, we will indeed consider amendments to the original bill.

As is so often the case when we are fighting to protect our environment, we now have no choice but to continue with the work of building consensus. Thank you to the Massachusetts Sierra Club and Green Cambridge for their tireless advocacy on this matter, and thanks as well to State Representative Marjorie Decker who offered testimony in support of the plastic bag ban on Monday night.

We will continue working together to ban single-use plastic bags early in the new year.

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