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Baltimore Has New Plastic Bag Rules

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Plastic Bags, grocery

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — When you buy something in the city from now on, you’ll have to ask for a plastic bag if you want one. 

Suzanne Collins explains a new green ordinance that took effect in Baltimore this week.

From now on, retailers must use paper bags unless they register with the city to offer plastic bags.  In that case, they are required to follow a number of recycling rules.

Starting this week, food retailers who want to still offer plastic bags must post signs at registers saying “Plastic bags will be provided only if you ask.”  The purpose is to cut down on pollution.

“They’re in the trees, they’re in the streets.  Most of them that get in the streets end up in the harbor,” said Councilman Jim Kraft.

Food stores not wanting to go all paper must also register with the city and keep track of the number of plastic bags they use.

The new ordinance requires that plastic bags that are given out say that they are recyclable.  Also, there must be a bin in every food store for people to return them.

Letters were to go to all stores that sell food, large and small, but the owner of a convenience store on Eastern Avenue didn’t know about the law.

“I think that’s ridiculous because we’re a small mom and pop shop.  That’s a lot of work for an individual to have to do,” said one worker.

Big grocers got on board from the start and helped draft the new law.

“This new ordinance is actually the lesser of two evils.  It doesn’t involve a ban and it doesn’t involve a tax on the bag,” said Rob Santoni, Santoni’s Market.

Shops that don’t sell any food don’t have to register or recycle, but they do have to post signs saying plastic bags are by request only.

The manager of Tobacco Barrel had no idea.

“I kind of think it’s stupid.  I mean, I understand they are trying to fix the pollution problem but that’s what 90% of retailers use is plastic bags,” said Brenda Weber.

The fines for violations start at $250 and if there are more violations in six months, it can rise to $1,000.

The councilman who developed the plastic bag bill says there won’t be “bag police” out looking for stores that violate, but the city will investigate complaints.

Food stores that registered to offer plastic bags could do that for free up until this week. Now, though, registering will cost $500.

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