Baltimore’s Bag Ban: What Will It Do? What’s Next?

A black and white picture of a plastic bag in the middle of a sidewalk. The bag features a smiley face that says "Have a Nice Day!" The Baltimore plastic bag ban will help curb plastic bag litter like this.
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Eight attempts at a Baltimore plastic bag ban have come and gone since 2006. Today, nine times proved to be the charm. 

This morning, Mayor Jack Young signed the Comprehensive Bag Reduction Bill into law. The signing drew dozens of advocates, city officials, press, and community members together. 

In Baltimore, plastic bags are everywhere. They fly down our streets, get caught in trees, clog our storm drains and streams, and choke out plants and animals. They cause even more problems worldwide. That’s why Blue Water Baltimore supports efforts to ban them.

While plastic bags are just one source of trash, bans like this provide upstream solutions that protect our environment and help build toward a zero waste future. Baltimore now joins Montgomery County, Howard County, and other Maryland jurisdictions in banning plastic bags. 

We’re proud that Baltimore City is helping lead the way to a cleaner, greener Maryland.

Blue Water Baltimore staff and environmental advocates pictured with Mayor Young immediately after he signed the Baltimore plastic bag ban bill into law. 1/13/2020
Two Blue Water Baltimore staff (front right) and environmental advocates pictured with Mayor Young shortly after the signing of the Baltimore ‘Bag Ban’ Bill.

 

What will the bag ban do? When does it start?

  • Plastic bags will no longer be given out during checkout at grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and other stores. 

  • Instead, customers can either bring their own reusable bags or pay five cents for other bags like paper. 

  • One cent of the fee will go to the City and four cents will go to retailers to cover the costs of alternative bags. 

  • Some products are exempt from the bill, including meats, prescriptions, and newspapers.

  • The bill goes into effect a year from today (January 13, 2021). 

 

Now what? What’s next?

Today, Delegate Brooke Lierman of Baltimore is introducing a bill to ban plastic bags statewide during the 2020 legislative session.

Delegate Lierman’s proposed bill would also create a working group to research other single-use plastics, such as food utensils and water bottles. The working group is tasked with studying the impact these types of plastic bans have on low-income Marylanders. Their findings will help guide policies that advance environmental justice and social equity.

Earlier versions of Baltimore City’s bag ban bill exempted SNAP and WIC users from the five cent fee; this would’ve taken the financial burden off those least able to afford it. Unfortunately, city councilmembers removed the fee exemption. As Maryland considers a statewide ban on plastic bags this legislative session, environmental protection and equity must go hand-in-hand. 

Baltimore’s leadership on banning plastic bags is important: after the city banned polystyrene foam in 2018, a statewide ban in 2019 soon followed. Let’s hope that Baltimore’s leadership today leads to a statewide ban during the 2020 legislative session. 

#BanTheBag.

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Taylor Smith-Hams serves as Blue Water Baltimore’s Outreach and Advocacy Specialist. She’s passionate about environmental justice and building a more equitable Baltimore. 

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