A Blue View: Ban the Bag

From snack bags and straws to candy bar wrappers and bottled water, single-use plastics are plentiful. The Community Cleanup and Greening Act of 2016 aims to eliminate disposable plastic bags at points of sale in Maryland.

Published February 23, 2016

microplastic

Image via Flickr.

Disposable plastics have gained mass appeal because they are convenient, durable and inexpensive to manufacture. But the abundance of plastic in the waste stream is taking an incredible toll on our environment, and specifically, our ocean.

Plastics degrade over time but never completely disappear. Instead, they break into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics, and those tiny slivers of plastic frequently end up in our waterways.

A recent study on marine debris by 5 Gyres estimates there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean. That waste is hazardous to healthy ecosystems. Marine animals are often injured or killed after becoming entangled in debris or ingesting plastic mistaken for a natural food source.

microplastic

Image via Flickr.

When the Environmental Protection Agency surveyed the composition of floating marine debris in several harbors around the country, including Baltimore’s own Inner Harbor, it found that plastic bags were the second most common item.

The Community Cleanup and Greening Act of 2016 would remove plastic bags from store checkouts in Maryland, with the goal of helping consumers switch from disposable to reusable bags and ultimately reducing plastic pollution.

Paper bags would replace plastic at the register, and consumers requiring a paper bag would be charged 10 cents. A portion of that fee would go back to the retailer, while the remainder would fund environmental and food access programs.

To learn more about the Community Cleanup and Greening Act of 2016, listen to this week’s A Blue View featuring Del. Brooke Lierman, one of the bill’s sponsors:

For more on how to get involved, contact Del. Lierman here.

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