Reporter Talia Richman’s article about the plastic bag ban recently signed into law by Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young includes several helpful questions and answers (“Baltimore will soon say bye to plastic bags at checkout. Here’s what you need to know,” Jan. 13). But there is a question that was left unasked and unanswered.
What about the burden this bill places on low-income residents, particularly those who use food assistance to purchase groceries? What happens to them when they have to pay for paper bags at checkout?
Picture this. A mother goes to the store with her young daughter and uses her WIC benefits to buy bread, orange juice, eggs, and butter — but doesn’t have extra money. She can’t use her benefits to buy non-food items like bags (or toilet paper or aspirin or other items that she might need). Here is what happens: She’ll gather the items in her arms while holding her daughter’s hand and juggle the best that she can. So will the senior citizen on SNAP.
Some might say, “She should keep bags in her car like I do.” Well, not everyone has a car. And it’s not as easy to carry around reusable bags when you use public transportation. It’s certainly not impossible, but it’s not that simple. Let the person who has never left their reusable bags in the car or at home cast the first stone.
This is not to say that people experiencing poverty aren’t invested in protecting the environment. But it’s indisputable that this law will have a disparate impact on low-income residents in Baltimore. As the state legislature addresses this issue in the General Assembly, let’s hope that legislators keep low-income Marylanders in mind. They’re juggling enough as it is.
Michael J. Wilson, Baltimore
The writer is director of Maryland Hunger Solutions.
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