Proposed bill would ban plastic grocery bags in Maryland


ANNAPOLIS,  Md. (WDVM) — Plastic carryout bags would be banned at the point of sale starting in July 2021 if a bill working its way through the Maryland General Assembly becomes law.

Baltimore City Delegate Brooke Lierman (D), hopes the law will eventually lead to shoppers bringing their own reusable bags to stores as a way to reduce waste and cut down on the environmental impact of discarded plastic.

Lierman has 43 cosponsors on her bill and a companion measure is pending in the Senate.

The legislation would also allow merchants to collect a 10 cent fee for “durable” or paper bags if a customer does not bring their own reusable bag to collect their purchases.

Republican Delegate Jerry Clark from Calvert and St. Mary’s counties takes issue with the proposal, suggesting discarded paper is as environmentally insensitive as plastic.

But Lierman says it is all a matter of changing consumer behavior. “Just as you don’t leave for the store without your wallet,  shoppers can get in the habit of bringing their own reusable bag,” she says.

Lierman points to pilot programs in Prince George’s, Montgomery and Howard counties which show that consumers are getting into the practice of toting their own bags to the store.

There are exceptions in the legislation:  plastic is okay for packing produce, meats and frozen foods,  wrapping flowers,  covering dry-cleaned clothes and taking prescribed medicines from a pharmacist.

Similar bills introduced in 2015 and 2016 failed to pass.  Baltimore City has a municipal ordinance patterned after the Lierman bill which is scheduled to take effect in January 2021. Takoma Park,  Westminister and the Town of Chestertown already have bag laws on the books.

Under the Montgomery County pilot program merchants do not keep the “bag fee.”  The county takes it for stormwater management but if the state law passes the money collected would go back to the stores so they can provide bags to customers likely made of paper, not plastic.

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