Manchester-by-the-Sea Bans Plastic Bags

Manchester-by-the-Sea Bans Plastic Bags

Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA, April 4, 2013 - Manchester, Massachusetts, a small town 20 miles north of Boston, has passed a by-law banning the distribution of plastic bags by local merchants.

Local resident Gary Gilbert presented the plastic bag reduction proposal to the Board of Selectmen at the January 7, 2013 Town Hall meeting. Mr. Gilbert proposed an amendment to the General By-Laws of the town. The proposed amendment would prohibit the distribution of thin-film single-use plastic bags at check-out by all retail businesses in the town.

Plastic Bag Reduction By-Law
SECTION 1: Purpose and Intent
The production and use of thin-film single-use plastic bags have significant impacts on the marine and land environment of all coastal communities, including, but not limited to:

  • contributing to the potential death of marine animals through ingestion and entanglement
  • contributing to the pollution of the land environment
  • creating a burden to our solid waste collection and recycling facility
  • clogging our storm drainage systems

The purpose of this legislation is to eliminate the usage of thin-film, single-use plastic bags by all retail establishments in the Town of Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Speakers at Meeting

Mr. Gilbert stated that plastic bags are practically indestructable and the plastic bag reduction proposal is geared specifically at plastic "check-out" bags.

To support his cause, Mr. Gilbert referred to Nantucket, Massachusetts which has had a plastic bag ban in place since 1990. Most recently, Brookline, Massachusetts banned plastic bags in November, 2012. A statewide effort to regulate plastic bags was led by State Rep. Lori Ehrlich in 2012 but did not pass.

At the meeting, there was general support for the plastic bag reduction proposal. Ms. Mary Hardwick, member of the Board of Selectmen, stated the she felt that before making a by-law for this issue, there should be better education about using reusable bags and for recycling plastic bags. The town  has a drop-off recycling program but does not recycle plastic bags. Plastic bags to be recycled can be dropped off at Crosby's Market, a local merchant. The town also has a composting facility but strictly forbids plastic bags.

Speaking against the proposed by-law was Bob Vello, General Manager of the local Crosby's Market. Crosby's Marketplace is a regional chain of food stores. Mr. Vello stated that the bag issue was one of both paper and plastic - not just plastic bags.

He said that if plastic bags were outlawed, people would use more paper bags resulting in more trees destroyed and a higher usage of water because it takes more water to produce paper bags than it does for plastic bags.

The local environmental group, Manchester Coastal Stream Team, weighed in with Francie Caudill speaking in favor of the proposed by-law. The Manchester Coastal Stream Team is a group of local citizens whose work focuses on projects designed to maintain and improve water cleanliness, quality, and preserve coastal habitats.

Manchester Town Meeting
The Town Meeting is Manchester's legislature. Town Meeting approves the annual budget for all departments and enacts the Town's governing laws, called By-Laws.

Manchester conducts an "open" town meeting. An "open" town meeting means that every registered voter is entitled to attend, to speak, and to vote. The open town meeting is the earliest and most direct form of American democracy.

The Manchester Town Meeting was held April 1st and 2nd. The plastic bag reduction General By-Law amendment was passed on the 2nd night, April 2nd, 2013. The new By-Law will take effect on July 1st, 2013 or later. All By-Laws, after passage, must be approved by the Massachusetts Attorney General before they can be put into effect.

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 Cover photo: Manchester-by-the-Sea Public Library. Author: Elizabeth Thomsen. Uploaded to flickr.com.  Licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)