Merchants in Frederick City Prohibited From Providing Plastic Bags To Customers Beginning Next Year

No fee will be charged to consumers who want paper bags.

Frederick, Md (KM) Retailers in Frederick city will soon no longer be able to provide plastic bags to their customers  when they make a sale. In a unanimous vote Thursday night, the Board of Aldermen approved an ordinance banning single use plastic bags. The new law takes affect on January 1st, 2024.

Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak,  who sponsored the legislation, says the goal is to reduce plastic pollution. “They’re not recyclable,” she said. “They will end either in a landfill or an incinerator.”

The ordinance approved on Thursday by the Aldermen does not contain a requirement that merchants charge ten cents per bag to their customers who want paper bags. Kuzemchak said the fee is necessary in order to encourage consumers to bring their own reusable bags to the stores when they go shopping. “I have shared studies. I have shared information.  It is a scientifically proven fact that the bag fee is necessary for this to work properly,” she said.

Alderman Ben MacShane is opposed. “I do not support that fee that I felt like would be punitive on low income families,”: he said.

In a previous motion, a majority of the Board of Aldermen voted down a similar ordinance with the bag fee.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, most citizens  testified in support the measure banning plastic bags, including Sarah Price with the Maryland Retailers Association. “Our membership has come to a position for strong support for the ban and fee structure that has been proposed by the Sierra Club, in particular the ten-cent fee,” she said.

Kerry Helsey with the Sierra Club,  also supports the ordinance, noting the litter problem these bags  create. . “29 million plastic bags are handed out in the city of Frederick every year,” she said. “It’s no wonder that we see them littering the roadway and the water if there’s so many bags with their propensity to fly away.”

The Executive Director of the Downtown Frederick Partnership, Kara Norman, testified in support of the ordinance. “On the part of the ban of single-use plastic bags, there is incredibly strong support for that within the retail, restaurant and service community within downtown Frederick,” she said. “There is not a majority in support of the mandatory bag fee.”

A number of communities in Maryland have some form of a plastic bag ordinance. They include Montgomery and Howard Counties, and the communities of  Chestertown, Takoma Park, Westminster,. Laurel and the city of Baltimore.  Baltimore County’s law is expected to go into affect on November 1st, 2023. The cities of Salisbury’s  law takes affect on July 1st, 2023, and College Park’s ordinance  will become active on September 1st, 2023. The municipally of Easton’s ordinance took affect on April 2nd,2023,  according to the backup material provided by the City of Frederick prior to last Thursday’s meeting.

With all this momentum, Annette Breilling from Ijamsville, who testified to the Alderman last week, said Frederick should do what other communities are doing. “And yet when I see what cities and places are doing by just putting in the legislation, I think ‘okay, if they can do it, why not us,'” she says. “And I’d like the city be an example for the county so it can spread throughout the county.”

The ordinance passed last week by the Board of Aldermen only covers Frederick city, It does not include Frederick County.

By Kevin McManus