Good news! Plastic bags — which are detrimental to the environment and wildlife — will soon be outlawed in Boston. After a year of hearing pleas from both sides, Mayor Martin J. Walsh signed a measure banning single-use plastic bags.
Reportedly, his primary concern is that the ban will adversely affect low-income residents and seniors. “My concern about [banning] plastic bags is just the cost, I just think the cost is going to be shifted over to the consumer,” said Walsh.
However, the environment took precedent, as future generations will inherit this planet. Walsh admitted that environmental arguments swayed his opinion. “In theory, it’s great for the environment. There’s no question about that,” the Mayor said. As a result of the new measure, shoppers will have to use reusable bags or pay 5 cents for a thicker, reusable plastic bag or a paper bag with handles.
As TreeHugger reports, not everyone is happy about the development. Some low-income individuals say the ban is “not fair” and will make affording groceries more difficult. However, it is worth noting that some cities charge more — such as the Canadian city of Victoria, which will charge 15 cents per bag.
To address these concerns, the city is taking steps. The Boston Globe reports:
“[City Council president Michelle Wu] said that over the next year, city officials will work to partner with businesses and organizations to help provide reusable bags to those with limited incomes. She said support for the ban came from residents of all income levels.”
Because banning single-use plastic bags will save the government money, there is a valid argument that consumers shouldn’t have to bear the cost of transitioning to sustainable alternatives. Boston city councillor Matt O’Malley acknowledged this point when addressing the costs of plastic bag cleanup. He told Metro News:
“I would argue that as it currently stands, we are paying a fee for plastic bags. Businesses factor the cost of bags into their bottom line, and the Department of Public Works spends time cleaning up these bags from trees, parks, lots, storm drains and waterways.
“In Boston, 20 tons of plastic bags are thrown into the city’s single-stream recycling each month,” O’Malley added. This prompts workers to spend hours each day removing bags from the equipment. “We are paying for that indirectly as taxpayers,” he concluded.
The city of Boston is the 60th town in Massachusetts to pass a plastic bag ban. Nationwide, it joins cities such as Seattle and Washington D.C. in banning single-use plastic.