This week, a committee of Baltimore’s City Council voted to send a bill placing prohibitions on plastic bags to the full council for consideration. Should council grant preliminary approval during a planned Nov. 4 vote, the stage would be set for a final vote that would make the proposal law. The Baltimore Sun reported that “a supermajority of the council co-sponsors the bill, so it is expected to pass easily.”
If enacted, the bill would bar grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants, gas stations and other retailers from giving out most single-use plastic bags. There are a few exemptions: The prohibition doesn’t apply to bags used to hold newspapers, dry cleaning, prescription drugs and food items like fresh fish, meat and/or produce. In addition to the ban on plastic bags, retailers will also be obligated to charge a 5-cent fee to customers who want paper bags. Under the proposed legislation, retailers would get to keep 4 cents of the fee.
There had been debate over having Baltimore’s ban apply only to thin plastic bags of 2.25 thousandths of an inch, while exempting thicker plastic bags. The exemption for thicker bags was removed, and those bags are now covered by the proposed ban.
Baltimore’s pending bag ban comes as legislative momentum in Maryland grows for imposing a statewide prohibition on single-use plastic bags. The Baltimore Sun reported that Delegate Brooke Lierman, a Democrat from Baltimore, plans to propose legislation that would outlaw plastic bags across the mid-Atlantic state. While particulars aren’t yet in place, Lierman has indicated that the legislation could institute a fee on paper bags, too.
Philadelphia, the sixth-largest city by population in the United States, is also looking to ban single-use plastic bags. In October, a committee for the Philadelphia City Council voted in favor of a bill that would prohibit retailers within the City of Brotherly Love from providing the bags to customers. Meanwhile, a ban on single-use plastic bags took effect in Providence, the capital city of Rhode Island, this month.
The plastic bag bans could spark sales opportunities for promotional products distributors. As bans take hold, residents will be looking for reliable, reusable bags for shopping. That’s a major advertising opportunity for businesses and other organizations to step in and provide free or relatively inexpensive quality branded totes. Smart distributors will look to market this idea to prospects and current clients. Some are already having success. “It’s a true trend. I’m seeing it firsthand here in the north, where some grocers have taken it system-wide (to do) no more plastic,” Javier Melendez, an account executive at Massachusetts-based All Star Incentive Marketing (asi/117110), recently told Counselor.
In recent years, momentum behind bans on single-use plastic bags has been growing at the local and statewide levels. Advocates want the bags outlawed because, they say, the disposables cause pollution and litter and are a threat to wildlife. Statewide prohibitions on single-use plastic bags exist in Vermont, Maine, California, New York and Hawaii.