21 December 2017

Boston bans plastic bags to reduce pollution

Boston became the 60th city in the Massachusetts state to put a ban on plastic bags and reduce some of the 357 million single-use plastic bags the city uses approximately every year.

The bill was signed on Sunday by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, joining other major cities state-wide and across the country, including Seattle, Hawaii, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Washington, DC.

Councillor Matt O’Malley, the lead sponsor of the measure, said: “Plastic bags are only used for an average of 12 minutes, but their impact on the city’s streets and drains is permanent. They end up in streets, storm gutters, trees, and tangled in our wildlife and marine ecosystem”.

The measure is expected to take effect in December 2018, giving retailers and consumers one year to adapt. Once in place, the ban will require consumers to pay 5 dollar cents for paper, compostable or reusable bags. These revenues will be used to offset the cost of the bags, which are more expensive.  

Earlier this month, 85 community leaders signed a letter urging the Mayor to sign the measure, arguing it will have environmental, social and economic benefits for the city of Boston.

“We pay for ‘free’ bags. The plastic bag industry collects $4 billion per year in profits from US retailers. In Boston alone, local retailers spend almost $14.3 million per year on bags. These costs are passed on to consumers”, reads the letter.

Mr. O’Malley added: “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”.

"We are paying for that indirectly as taxpayers”.

In August 2014, California became the first state to enact legislation imposing a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at large retail stores.

A few months ago, Kenya passed the stricter law worldwide against plastic bags adopting a punitive approach. Judy Wakhungu, Kenya's Environment Minister had said: “Plastic has become our environmental nightmare that we must defeat by all means”.

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