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The Prince George’s County Council voted to advance a bill last week that would ban the use of plastic bags and add a 10-cent fee for each paper bag in all county retail stores.
CB-032, coined the “Better Bag Bill,” garnered unanimous support from the county council on May 30. Several council members cited the rise of air and ocean pollution as a driving factor in banning unrecyclable plastic bags.
Retailers that fail to comply with the law could face a fine of up to $500. The proposed bill does not impact plastic wrappings for frozen foods and packaged bulk items.
District 1 council member Tom Dernoga, one of the bill’s seven sponsors, hopes the measure will increase the number of reusable bags across the county. It puts a “notice” on county council members and government officials to help distribute reusable bags to the public, he said.
The bill also received support from retailers and environmental organizations in the county.
Sarah Price, the membership and government affairs vice president for the Maryland Retailers Association, highlighted how the bill will help limit single-use bags across the county.
“Ultimately the goal here is to minimize the use of any single-use bags, and the ban on plastic, fee on paper is the most effective way to do that,” Price said at last week’s county council meeting.
Greg Smith, a Hyattsville resident and environmental activist, also praised the proposed bill’s environmental benefits. The bill’s provisions would reduce the impact of natural gas and pollution on public health in the county by working to minimize plastic bag usage, Smith said.
He urged council members last week to pass the bill and lead environmental policy in the region.
“Here’s another chance for the county to be a leader,” Smith said. “It’s environmentally sound. It’s economically sound. It’s doable. It takes us in the right direction.”
The “Better Bag Bill” follows several laws across the county that ban plastic bags in local jurisdictions, including a measure in College Park banning nonreusable plastic bags that will take effect Sept. 1.
Michael Williams, College Park’s economic development manager, supports the county bill and emphasized that the county must be bold in tackling environmental concerns.
While Prince George’s County is much larger than the city of College Park, it should not deter the county from attempting to create lasting environmental change, Williams said in a public county council hearing in March.
Despite the bill’s overwhelming support, some council members proposed amendments after concerns from constituents.
District 7 council member Krystal Oriadha expressed concerns about the bill’s impact on low-income residents.
“Ten cents, 20 cents, any type of fee wouldn’t impact me. I don’t think about that,” Oriadha said at last week’s hearing. “But I know people that struggle to find change to pay their bills when they are in the grocery store.”
Moving forward, Oriadha said she plans to propose an amendment to address these issues concerning low-income residents across the county.
Due to the proposed amendments, another public hearing for the bill is scheduled for June 20. If approved, the bill will become law on Jan. 1, 2024.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled Tom Dernoga’s name. This story has been updated.