Lowell to Weigh Ban on Single-use Plastics
LOWELL -- Get ready for a cleaner city in 2019.
That’s the hope from environment advocates after the City Council voted Tuesday night to move forward with a plastic-bag ban.
They voted 6-2 for the city solicitor to prepare an ordinance that bans plastic bags as of Jan. 1, 2019.
This motion had come out of the council’s Environmental & Flood Issues Subcommittee.
Councilor Karen Cirillo, the chair of that committee who first proposed this idea back in January, said it’s critical for the city to ban plastic bags, “helping the environment and moving the city forward.”
“This is something we need to do,” added Councilor Jim Milinazzo.
More than 60 communities across the state have banned plastic bags. Westford recently passed a bylaw, which will go into effect in 2019.
Stores there will be required to offer recyclable paper bags or reusable bags instead, although certain kinds of disposable bags, such as those for produce and newspaper, will be allowed.
The details of the Lowell ban still need to be ironed out.
The subcommittee was looking at an ordinance that would ban plastic bags in stores larger than 3,000-square-feet, and would only apply to carryout bags used at stores.
“So there’s no hardship on smaller businesses,” Cirillo said about the 3,000-square-foot store detail.
Some bags could be exempt from the ban, such as: thin-film plastic bags used for dry cleaning, newspaper, flexible transparent covering for uncooked raw meat, poultry, raw fish, hard cheese, cold cuts, fruits, vegetables, baked goods or bread and wet items.
The city solicitor will come back with the specific details.
Councilor John Leahy said the smaller stores, under 3,000 square feet, should also be included.
“Let’s go all the way,” Leahy said.
The two in dissent were Councilors Rodney Elliott and Dave Conway.
Elliott said any legislation should be handled at the state level, and pointed to the legislation in the Statehouse to reduce plastic-bag pollution.
If Lowell passes a ban, residents would shop in neighboring towns where there’s no ban, and that would hurt city businesses, Elliott argued.
“I don’t know why we can’t wait a couple months for the state,” Conway said. “If they don’t approve it, we can come back and vote it in.”
Elliott proposed the city solicitor prepare a resolution endorsing the Statehouse bill to ban plastic bags. The council supported that 8-0.
Elliott also proposed to include biodegradable bags as an alternative to plastic bags in the ordinance.
“It’s friendly to the environment,” he said.
Cirillo pushed back at the amendment, saying the biodegradable bags are similar to plastic bags.
“It’s switching over from one problem to another problem,” she said.
The amendment failed 2-6. Councilor Rita Mercier was absent Tuesday night.
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.