Baltimore will soon officially ban retailers’ use of plastic bags in an effort to crack down on pollution.
Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young plans to sign the legislation into law Monday during an event at the Inner Harbor’s National Aquarium, according to a spokesman. It will go into effect in 2021.
Lawmakers have tried nine times since 2006 to push through this ban, which was championed by environmentalists. Supporters say plastic bags are among the city’s most ubiquitous forms of litter, fouling ecosystems and hurting wildlife.
Even with broad support on the all Democratic council, there was heated debate about whether this ban placed too heavy a financial burden on retailers. Paper bags are much more expensive to buy than plastic ones, grocers testified. The city is counting on people to switch their habits and start relying more on reusable checkout bags.
The law will forbid grocers and other retailers from giving out plastic bags, instead requiring them to charge a nickel for any other bag they supply to shoppers, including paper bags. Retailers would keep 4 cents from the fee for each alternative bag they supply, with a penny going to city coffers.
Those found to violate the ban three times or more would face a fine of up to $1,000.
Young initially supported the plastic bag ban, saying in October: “I support a ban because it ends up in our trees and in our harbor. I support a ban: all plastic bags." But he later grew more reserved. In November, he backtracked to say he didn’t have a position on the bill and referenced concerns that it was a “tax on the poor.”
With his ultimate decision to sign the bill Monday, advocates say the city will take an important step forward in reducing plastic pollution.