To ban or not to ban: forum provides opportunity for plastic bag discussion

It has become ever more commonplace in municipal government for decisions to be made without involving thorough discussion and exploration of related issues with town residents at large.  More often than not, various proposals work their way through different board and committee meetings in Town Hall with minimal publicity, garnering extremely small if existent discussions among residents themselves.  In the case of a potential town-wide ban on plastic grocery and retail bags, however, Wellesley residents are ensuring that others have the chance to give their input.

For several months, commissioners of the Natural Resource Commission (NRC) have been studying the potential implementation of various forms of a plastic bag ban in Wellesley.  Next week, the idea of a plastic bag ban will be opened up for discussion among residents at a presentation and forum sponsored by Sustainable Wellesley, the Unitarian Universalist congregation’s Green Sanctuary and Learning Committees, and the 3R Working Group, a joint task force formed by the Department of Public Works, the Natural Resources Commission, and the Sustainable Energy Committee.

“About a year ago, the members of the NRC became interested in the possibility of banning bags in Wellesley when we were working with the Trails Committee on trail maintenance and came across a wooded area near Morses Pond that was literally lined with plastic bags. The matter became more urgent in May, when the Recycling and Disposal Facility determined that they could no longer collect plastic bags for recycling,” said NRC Vice Chair Lise Olney.

The concept of a plastic bag ban is not a foreign one to Massachusetts municipalities; many other towns have also enacted restrictions of varying strength on the free dispensary of plastic shopping bags.  The oldest “bag ban” in the state was passed in Nantucket in 1990; since then 12 other towns have also taken related action.  Most recently, Cambridge, Falmouth, Marblehead, Newburyport, Newton, Wellfleet and Williamstown have adopted ordinances significantly restricting the use of plastic shopping bags within their communities.

The event will feature a brief showing of the documentary Bag It, followed by presentations from guest speakers and a discussion about the different forms that a plastic bag ban could take in Wellesley. The event’s guest speakers will include Newton Alderman Alison Leary, who helped to pass a plastic bag ban in Newton that went into effect in July. “For several months now, we have been running an informal survey of Wellesley residents at public events about a possible bag ban in Wellesley,” said Olney. “This event is a great way for us to continue the public conversation.”

All residents are invited to take part in the presentation and discussion on Friday, September 25 at 6:30pm. Pizza and light refreshments will be provided.  The event will take place inside the Unitarian Universalist church at 309 Washington Street.  For more information, please contact the NRC at nrc@wellesleyma.gov or 781-431-1019 ext. 2294.

(Matthew Hornung)

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