by AMBER EBANKS
The Greenbelt City Council recently voted last February to support the Community Cleanup and Greening Act (HB 551) which would ban disposable plastic bags across the state, with exceptions for meats and produce. Shoppers will instead be encouraged to purchase reusable bags. This act is one of Maryland’s efforts to solve its pollution problem.
Stores will be required to charge 10 cents for each paper bag distributed at checkout to decrease bag use. According to Morgan Bachman, the University of Maryland’s Recycling Program Associate, plastic bags are distributed on campus in Stamp, the convenience shops and diners on campus.
“For several years they (members of the university) have been allowed to put plastic bags in single stream recycling if they tied the bag tight with plastic bag waster. The local recycling place has told the university that they can’t do that.”
Students can dispose plastic bags inside of separate pins specifically for plastic bags inside of the convenience shops on campus, such as the 24 Shop, South Campus Commons and TerpZone.
The Sigma Kappa sorority on campus has partnered with the University through its “Sigma Karpets” program. Members of Sigma Kappa will take bags from the disposing centers on campus and use them to create reusable plastic mats. The plastic bags are cut into plastic yarn and then crotched into mats. These mats are given to the National Coalition of the Homeless.
If HB551 passes, The University of Maryland will have to follow the implementation of this bill. Del. Maggie McIntosh is a co-sponsor for the bill. She became a supporter of the bag fee approach several years ago after a trip to Ireland, a country with similar bag laws.
“Within one week’s time I noticed a marked change in my behavior as I was saving and recycling my bags whenever possible,” McIntosh said.
Del. Stephen W. Lafferty recommends taking the bags to a grocery or retail store. Lafferty said in order to implement the program, “there would have to be an expansive education program. Citizens would have to understand why it’s being done and the changes it could bring.” This may be implemented through flyers in food stores and advertisements on buses.
The House Environment and Transportation Committee heard HB 551 and have yet to report on it. Del. Alonzo T. Washington, a co-sponsor for the bill was unavailable for comment while co-sponsor Delegate. Benjamin T. Brooks, Sr. refused to comment.