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Brookline bans disposable plastic check out bags in supermarkets

Posted by Brock Parker  November 14, 2012 08:47 PM

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A day after banning Styrofoam food containers, Brookline Town Meeting voted Wednesday to prohibit supermarkets and some other retailers from using disposable plastic checkout bags.

The ban was approved by a vote of 142-53 after proponents showed Town Meeting members pictures of a cow chewing on a plastic bag and other animals entangled in the bags.

Only disposable polyethylene plastic bags will be banned, and the new law will not kick in until December of 2013.

Clint Richmond, a Town Meeting member who helped spearhead the effort behind the ban, said the plastic bags are not environmentally friendly and he’s hoping the new local law will encourage other communities to adopt bans.

“We hope it will inspire similar action across the state,” Richmond said.

The new law bans single-use plastic checkout bags that are not compostable or marine degradable and are issued as check-out bags at the point of sale.

The law will affect supermarkets that have had more than $1 million in gross sales during the previous tax year. Retail pharmacies with at least two locations in Brookline under the same ownership also can’t use the bags, and retail stores with more than 2,500 square feet, or establishments with at least three locations that total more than 2,500 square feet of space in Brookline also can’t use the bags.

The plastic bag ban came one day after Brookline Town Meeting voted to prohibit the use of disposable polystyrene (also known by its trademarked name, Styrofoam) for take-out food and beverages packaged in food service establishments in the town.

But Brookline Selectman Dick Benka said the law does not target convenience stores or sandwich shops, and instead targets supermarkets where the bags have their most utility for residents carrying their groceries.

Benka said he thought the ban is “misguided,” and he argued that the number of trees that will be cut down to make paper bags that would be used instead of plastic bags will also be detrimental to the environment.

Other opponents argued the plastic bags shouldn’t be banned because they are useful.
Town Meeting member Julius Levine, who walks with a walker, said plastic bags are better because they have handles that don’t tear like paper bags. He said the plastic bags are also better because they are water resistant.

Gary Jones, a Town Meeting member who owns mastiffs, said he likes the plastic bags because he uses them to pick up after his big dogs.

But Selectwoman Jesse Mermell said passing the ban would be another way Brookline could take the lead on environmental health.

“You don’t have to be a scientist to see how plastic bags are harmful to the environment,” Mermell said.

Andrew Fischer, said the town has a year to find alternatives to use for the disposable plastic bags.

“In the end we have to decide if we want to be a throw away society or if we want to have a planet for our children and grandchildren,” Fischer said.

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