|Pittsfield Inching Closer to Decision on Plastic Bag Ban|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
04:02AM / Tuesday, June 05, 2018
|The Ordinance and Rules Committee feels it has enough input to craft new ordinances for plastic bags and trash collection. |
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — City officials are slowly getting closer to rendering a decision on the plastic bag ban.
Attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo proposed a ban on single-use plastic bag -- specifically the bags used at the checkout of grocery stores -- a little over five years ago. Pittsfield would have been at the forefront of the effort but during the time it has kicked around the legislative process, 79 other communities in the state have passed bans.
Del Gallo said he'd even like to build on the petition by adding a surcharge for customers who use paper bags, an incentive to encourage residents to go with reusable bags. But, given the length of time it has been discussed, Del Gallo is worried about adding something now would cause even longer delays in passing it. The issue was first dealt with by the Green Commission, headed back to City Council, and then was kicked off to the Ordinance and Rules Subcommittee, where it has been all year.
"I don't want this to cause this to be Month 5 before Ordinance and Rules," Del Gallo said. "At this point in time, we just want something passed."
Brad Verter headed a similar effort in Williamstown. He said the case for the bags being bad for the environment has been made in the past and he turned his attention to the economic benefits. He said retailers across the nation spend
$14 billion a year on non-recyclable bags and in Pittsfield alone retailers spend $910,000. He said that price ultimately gets passed onto the customer in one way or the other.
"No business has ever lost money because of a bag law," he added.
He said places like Ocean State Job Lot has even supported bag bans and surcharges on paper bags in other areas because it helps defray the overhead costs. And Verter fully discredits arguments that reusable bags are unsanitary.
Resident Terry Kinnas, however, said reusable bags are a health concern. He said the bags have to be routinely washed and he doesn't believe many in Pittsfield will do so. He called on the Ordinance and Rules Committee to weigh health concerns heavily.
"Those plastic and paper bags that you get are clean at the grocery store. You put your groceries in there and there is no risk of contamination," Kinnas said.
He went on to say that such a ban doesn't "help the little guy." He cited people who those grocery bags for small trash cans and eliminating the bags altogether will add another complication to a resident's routine.
The City Council has heard plenty of opinions on the matter and has been honing in on an ordinance. For example, the makers of biodegradable single-use bags presented to the council and considerations are being made with the wording to allow such bags to continue to be used.
"I see the good of banning things that could be bad for the environment, at the same time I feel there are alternatives," Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo said of the alternative bag types.
Mazzeo is also concerned that the ban could end up being too restrictive.
Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo said there has been plenty of suggestions and discussion over time. He is suggesting that he sit with Mazzeo and craft an ordinance that takes all of that into consideration and presents that at the July meeting. The majority of the Ordinance and Rules Committee agreed. Councilor John Krol voted against tabling it.
Caccamo is planning to do the same thing with updates to the city's ordinance on solid waste. Ordinance and Rules has been looking to revamp its laws around trash collection. That has been a heated and ongoing issue in the city. On Monday, Ordinance and Rules members got some final questions answered regarding the safety of the trash collection workers, sizes of barrels, and concerns with the definitions of bulky waste.
One outstanding issue is finding a clear definition for "safely secured." The councilors have heard that the proposed toters wouldn't work for residents. And then they were told that even requiring barrels isn't supported by all residents. They hope to have a definition for "safely secured" to prevent trash from being blown into the streets on collection day.
Caccamo too offered to sit down and craft a draft ordinance for the subcommittee to work with in July.