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Proposed Plastic Bag Ban Sent Back To Committee


   The drive to make Springfield the latest city in Massachusetts to ban plastic shopping bags has stalled.  

    Claiming widespread confusion and misunderstanding among constituents about a proposed ordinance to regulate the ubiquitous single-use plastic bags, Springfield city councilors voted Monday night to send the legislation back to committee with a recommendation for a public information hearing.

    The council had given initial approval to the ordinance on a voice vote earlier this month and was poised Monday to take a roll-call vote to send it to the desk of Mayor Domenic Sarno.   But, Councilor Tim Allen, saying the proposed regulations might not be “ready for prime time,” suggested a forum be held where people could ask questions.

  "For something like this that has such concrete impact on many people on a daily basis they should understand exactly what the rules are, so I am hoping that is what comes out of that," said Allen.

   Allen’s motion to send the issue back to committee was approved by a voice vote after some 90 minutes of debate.

   The proposed ordinance would ban retailers from distributing single-use plastic bags at the point of sale. There are several exceptions including laundry or dry-cleaner bags and bags used to wrap produce and fresh or frozen foods.  

   The Springfield ordinance is similar to ones that have been enacted in more than 90 Massachusetts municipalities including the city of Boston.

   Springfield City Councilor Kateri Walsh said constituents she has heard from have mixed opinions on the plastic bag ban issue.

  "People are concerned about that impact on the other uses of plastic bags, they still want to be able to use plastic bags for other domestic tasks, and a lot of people are really concerned about the environment," said Walsh.

     The sponsor of the ordinance, City Councilor Jesse Lederman, said he will work with his colleagues to try to build a consensus.

  "I am looking forward to holding an addtional meeting," said Lederman, who has held several committee meetings since last October to draft the proposed ordinance. "I think folks are really activated around this now. They are paying attention, both residents and my colleagues on the City Council."

          Some councilors found fault with particular parts of the ordinance as it is currently written.

   City Councilor Tim Ryan objected to a requirement that retailers must charge at least 5 cents for recyclable paper or compostable plastic bags as an incentive for people to bring their own reusable bags. He said he feared it would become known as “the City Council bag tax.”

   There was also criticism over the proposed fines for violating the ordinance with City Councilor Mike Fenton saying the penalties were not severe enough to discourage retailers from continuing to use the bags.

  Mayor Sarno has not said if he will sign a plastic bag ban.



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