Salisbury exploring possible ban on plastic bags

By Liz Holland
Posted 5/17/22

Salisbury officials are exploring the possibility of banning plastic bags at grocery and retail stores, as well as restaurants offering carryout, but first they want to hear from local business …

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Salisbury exploring possible ban on plastic bags

Posted

Salisbury officials are exploring the possibility of banning plastic bags at grocery and retail stores, as well as restaurants offering carryout, but first they want to hear from local business owners.

“It’s all exploratory,” said Alyssa Hastings, the city’s Sustainability Specialist. “We just want to get a lot of feedback.”

The city has reached out to members of the Greater Salisbury Committee and the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, and so far, there has been a mix of opinions, she said.

“We want to take a pulse to see how it would affect businesses,” Hastings said.

The idea is nothing new in Maryland. Other cities and counties in Maryland have recently adopted bag bans including Howard and Montgomery counties, Baltimore City, Takoma Park, Chestertown and Westminster. And to Salisbury’s north, there is a plastic bag ban in the entire state of Delaware. Efforts to ban bags statewide in Maryland haven’t gained much traction so far.

The reason to ban the bags is simple. Only 5 percent of plastic bags are recycled, meaning they end up in landfills or as roadside trash.

After Washington, D.C., banned plastic bags in 2009, there was a 60 percent reduction in single-use carryout bag consumption in the first year and the Anacostia River had a significant decrease in plastic bags during litter cleanups.

In Salisbury, Hastings said the city’s Sustainability Advisory Committee has collected large numbers of plastic bags during cleanups here.

“From an environmental standpoint, it is a problem,” said City Administrator Julia Glanz. “It’s also an eyesore.”

City officials have been considering a ban for a few years, and recently gave the greenlight to the “Green Team” to explore it, she said.

“We know it will be a big shift,” Glanz said.

If the mayor and City Council decide to proceed, there would likely be a long lead time to let business owners use up their existing stock, she said. Such a ban would probably affect small local businesses the most. Big box stores are already complying with similar plastic bag bans in other parts of the state and country and can easily make the shift to paper.

The recommendation is to prohibit retailers from providing plastic carryout bags to customers at the point of sale. It also requires retailers to charge at least 10 cents for paper or other carryout bags.

Charging for paper bags is a financial incentive for shoppers to move towards reusable bags. The goal of the proposed ban is not to switch to paper bags, but instead to encourage reusable bags.

The ban would not include plastic bags used in grocery stores for packing items such as produce, baked goods, seafood and meats. It also wouldn’t apply to wrappers and bags for newspapers, flowers and plants, dry cleaned items and ice, or to anything that comes packed in plastic, Hastings said.

Feedback on the plastic bag ban proposal may be sent to Alyssa Hastings at ahastings@salisbury.md.

“The local businesses are really what we want to hear from,” she said.