Bagging it in Baltimore

We’ve spent enough time covering the skyrocketing murder rate and gang violence problems in Baltimore, Maryland by now that you’re probably familiar with the ongoing tragedies faced by the citizens of Charm City. And we’ve also tried to point out the efforts by community members to curb some of that violence. But further action is needed by the City Council (preferably in cooperation with state and federal agencies) to make real progress.

With that in mind, it’s good to see that the Council got together on the same page this week to finally take some decisive action. They passed a measure banning plastic bags in retail stores. (WaPo)

Preliminary approval has been granted by the Baltimore City Council to ban retailers from giving out plastic bags.

The Baltimore Sun reports City Council voted Monday night 13 to one to ban the use of plastic bags and charge five cents to give any other kind of bag, including paper bags, to customers. Retailers would keep four cents of the fee and the city would get one cent. Some products, such as newspapers, would be exempt from the rule.

Another vote is planned for Nov. 18. If approved, the bill would advance to the mayor’s desk. He could sign the ban or allow it to take effect without his signature.

I see. So this is apparently what the leadership in Baltimore is spending their time on. Well, I suppose you solve the problems that are in front of you and solvable, I guess.

Under this plan, plastic bags are not to be offered. And if you want a paper bag instead, you’ll have to pay a nickel. The store will keep four cents of that and the city will pocket the remaining penny. Isn’t it curious how all of these social improvement programs always turn out to involve some sort of new revenue stream for the local government?

What they really want you to do is buy those cloth or canvas reusable shopping bags and bring them with you with the store. I personally find that a good option and we use them ourselves at my house. The ones with sturdy, well-sewn handles never rip open and dump all your groceries on the ground in the rain.

I’m also not unsupportive of the idea of cutting down on how much plastic we’re flushing into landfills and our oceans. It’s a serious problem that’s already coming back to bite us. Plastic is simply bad for the environment and takes forever to break down. It also leaches out toxic chemicals over time.

But the biggest problem in terms of the ocean is probably microplastics, not large bags. Encouraging companies to make the switch isn’t a bad idea, and a lot of them have already done it voluntarily. But local government mandates are rarely the way to tackle an issue like this, particularly when people can just go across the city, county or state line and get more bags anyway. Plus, plastic bags still do have their place for some tasks. (Anyone who walks a dog on a regular basis can relate, I’m sure.)

Since the measure passed by a 13-1 margin and the residents of the city are unlikely to start electing conservatives any time soon, it’s probably too late to worry about. The plastic bag ban will become the new normal in Baltimore. So be it. So now that this pressing challenge has been handled, how about that murder rate, guys?