Councilors seek more info on plastic bag bans

GREENFIELD — While many residents and city councilors spoke in favor of a proposed plastic bag ban, at least one councilor is considering voting against it when it gets to the full council.

“My answer, if I wanted to vote today, I don’t know, I really don’t know,” Councilor Penny Ricketts said after a meeting of the City Council’s Appointments and Ordinance Committee Wednesday. “I can’t say yes and I can’t say no.”

The Appointments and Ordinance Committee began the discussion on the ban that evening, hearing from residents and councilors on a proposed ban on plastic bags. The ordinance was brought forward by councilors Sheila Gilmour and Tim Dolan.

The ordinance would ban retail locations from using disposable plastic bags where customers check out. Instead, bags that are recyclable, compostable or reusable will be used, with businesses allowed to charge for bags.

If the proposal is approved, businesses would have a year to comply, though they could apply for an extension of up to two years. Businesses not in compliance could face fines of up to $300 a day.

While residents and some councilors spoke in favor of the proposed ban, Ricketts was uncertain. She noted that residents voted against a nonbinding referendum to ban plastic bags in 2015.

According to resident Sandra Boston, the citywide vote was close. The final tally had a difference of 221 votes — 2,242 against the referendum versus 2,021 for it.

“I think to say it was on the ballot and didn’t pass is not a strong enough argument,” Boston said.

“We are in a self-destructive cycle with nature,” she added. “To me, this ordinance calls us to accountability, calls us to responsibility.”

Another resident, Wendy Goodman, spoke in favor of the proposal.

“I came to talk to you, Penny. What I heard is, you’re going to vote against this,” Goodman said.

Goodman asked Ricketts to abstain from a vote when it comes time, “so that way, we don’t get held back.”

Ricketts said her opposition is because of the results of the referendum vote as well as what she has heard from residents and business owners.

“It’s because I’m out and about in the city and I hear from lots of people,” Ricketts said. “I just want to listen. I just want to hear from everyone.”

Councilor John Lobik expressed skepticism over the effectiveness of bag bans, and said he would require more information before he votes.

The Appointment and Ordinance Committee is expected to discuss the proposal again next month. According to Ricketts, the ordinance could reach City Council by August or September.

Author: Going Green

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