Washington Post reports that during a public hearing this week, environmentalists, grocery store representatives and others debated a proposed ordinance banning the use of plastic bags by Annapolis retailers.

Supporters of the legislation, introduced by Alderman Sam Shropshire (D-Ward 7), said it would help reduce the environmental impact of discarded plastic bags, which don‘‘t decompose as well as paper. They also said that fish, birds and turtles can die from intestinal problems when they ingest discarded plastic bags in the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding tributaries.

But opponents of the ban, largely supermarkets and other merchants, said they are not convinced that paper is necessarily better for the environment. They say that plastic is much more efficient to ship, thus cutting down on gas from fossil fuels emitted into the atmosphere.

Barry F. Scher, a spokesman for Giant Food, said consumers will absorb the increased cost for paper bags, about 5 cents each, compared with 2 cents apiece for plastic bags. He and other supermarket officials also said that consumers find it easier to carry groceries in plastic bags.

“Today, over 95 percent of our customers want plastic bags,” Scher said.

Shropshire told supermarket officials, merchants and other industry representatives that the council was “going to listen to what you say.” But he said Tuesday that unless the City Council wants to extend the matter, a second reading of the ordinance will be in September, followed by a vote in October.

“I fully expect on October 8th, plastic bags will be prohibited,” Shropshire said.

Monday‘‘s public hearing reflected how unsettled the debate is about the environmental merits of paper vs. plastic. Some said that both types of bags are wasteful and that consumers should carry reusable ones to stores. Forced to make a choice, environmentalists say that plastic can be especially harmful in coastal regions.

“We would rather not see plastic bags used,” said William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, noting that they pose a problem for creatures in the water.

David Prosten, chairman of the Sierra Club Anne Arundel County Group, also supported the ban.

“Recyclable paper is ultimately better than the use of plastic,” he said.

Others said the city would be better served by enforcing litter laws. Opponents of the ban also said plastic bags are in demand as a recyclable material, in particular as a component for plastic decks.

Safeway and Giant supermarkets said they sell reusable bags and encourage the recycling of plastic bags.

“We make money on the bags we recycle,” said Gregory TenEyck, a Safeway spokesman.

He noted the efficiency of shipping plastic. According to TenEyck, seven trucks are needed to transport the same amount of paper bags as are in one truckload of plastic bags.

TenEyck said Monday that the proposed plastic ban was ultimately “un-American.”

“We believe it takes away consumers‘‘ right to choice. Paper or plastic? There‘‘s not a wrong answer.”

Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer (D) has said that although she is concerned about the environment, she is not convinced that a plastic bag ban would be the best policy. She said she wants more information from experts and would also like to examine expanding the city‘‘s recycling program and giving residents reusable sacks.


Ano da Publicação:
WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #32-2007-August 10, 2007
Kit Strange/Warmer Bulletin
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