Plastic bag ban draft finally gets to Westfield officials

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – The plastic bag ban draft was presented last night to the city council’s public health and safety committee, giving a glimpse of what could be coming to the city by early next year.

Titled the “sustainable bag ordinance,” the ordinance has come to be known as a plastic bag ban in Westfield and other municipalities since it limits the types of plastic bags allowed at retailers. The bag ordinance was presented to the committee by Sean Bacon of Ware, who is a sophomore at Westfield State University and interned with the city and ward 1 councilor Mary Ann Babinski in order to create the draft.

First up for the ordinance is a public hearing while it is with the public health and safety committee. The draft is expected to undergo editing, with potential for large portions of it to be changed. After the public hearing and a determination that it is appropriate for city residents and businesses, it will then go to city council.

“I hope it’s all done before the summer,” Babinski said. “I’m hopeful that it will be done by March, or April at the latest.”

The ordinance, which was styled after similar ordinances in other local municipalities, is meant to prevent the negative impact that is perceived to occur due to plastic bags. According to the ordinance, many plastic bags end up in waterways or the environment, which causes potentially toxic chemicals and other pollutants to leach into the water and the ground.

Once this happens, according to the ordinance draft, the “pollutants are transported up the food chain, presenting human health standards,” such as if a fish consumes the plastic and the fish is consumed by a human.

Other concerns include littering public areas, clogging drainage systems and overwhelming recycling facilities.

The draft maintains that any retail establishment that gives “checkout bags to customers” will comply with the ordinance if they provide “a recyclable paper bag, a compostable and marine-degradable plastic bag, or a reusable checkout bag.”

Enforcement will include an initial violation, then if any other violations happen within a year the first one is a $50 fine, second offense a $100 fine, and a third and subsequent offenses costing $200 each. Violations are limited to one every 14 days, with a company being given 21 days to pay their fines.

Companies that are exempted are those who have a gross revenue of under $40,000. Additionally, the ordinance will not apply to plastic bags used for dry cleaning, newspapers, produce, meat, bulk foods, wet items, cheeses, cold cuts, baked goods or bread.