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The plastic bag ban outlined by Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley contains a fee on paper bags that will cost several millions of dollars to Boston consumers, further strapping working families already struggling to get by in one of America’s most expensive cities.

O’Malley, a district councilor from Roslindale, chaired the Plastic Bag Ordinance Task Force and unveiled legislation banning thin, single-use plastic bags from being used by grocery stores and other retailers. O’Malley maintained plastic bags are harmful to the environment and clog up landfills for hundreds of years. However, despite there being no evidence of environmental benefit, his bill also calls for a five-cent fee on paper bags.

“The Task Force appears to have a solution in search of a problem,” said Gretchen Spear, director, packaging, of the American Forest & Paper Association. “Dozens of communities in Massachusetts have enacted plastic bag bans in recent years, and all but one have opted against a fee on paper bags.

“A $.05 paper bag fee will cost Bostonians millions of dollars, hitting hard working families at a time they can ill afford it,” Spear continued. “Consumers who are sensitive to environmental concerns opt for paper bags because paper bags are recyclable, compostable, and made from a renewable resource.”

Paper is the most recycled material in the world, and in the U.S. in 2015, two-thirds of all paper consumed was recovered for recycling. More paper is recovered for recycling by municipal solid waste streams than glass, plastic, steel and aluminum combined.

Additionally, the surcharge will go directly into the retailers’ pockets and not be directed for programs to benefit the public.

“The City of Boston should look carefully at the proposed fee and reject it based on both economic and environmental factors,” Spear said. “Nearly every other municipality in Massachusetts that has considered a bag ordinance has turned down a paper bag fee. The Task Force’s proposal simply goes too far.”

Published in the January 2017 Edition of American Recycler News