Board of Health Takes First Steps Towards Plastic Bag Ban

Many communities have banned single-use plastic bags, and it appears Winthrop will soon follow suit.

Last week the Board of Health voted to approve a draft of regulations on banning single-use plastic bags. The next step will be a public hearing in September with the Town Council.

“The regulations are similar to what Boston has,” said Chairman of the Board of Health Bill Schmidt. “These are the very thin plastic bags that a carton of milk could slip though.”

The regulation would encourage people to use their own bags by having merchants charge a 5-cent fee for a bag. In some stores, paper bags are offered for free and another thicker, recyclable bag can be purchased.

“There would probably be a six-month implementation time which would probably start in the fall after the public hearing,” Schmidt said.

If all goes as planned the ban in Winthrop may be law in May 2020.

The Board of Health has been working on a plastic bag ban for more than six months.

“The Mother’s Out Front group brought this to us and the Town Council last fall,” Schmidt said. “We are concerned about health of the environment so it was natural to pick this up.”

So far 122 communities have banned single use plastic bags. Whether or not it becomes a statewide ban depends on the legislators.

“Right now we have a worldwide glut of plastics. We have to choose plastic or planet. Until we start decreasing plastic production, until we turn off the spigot, we have to choose ways to decrease our plastic use. And a single-use plastic bag ban is an important first step. Plastic contributes to greenhouse emissions–carbon dioxide and methane–at every stage of its life cycle from production to refining and the way it is managed as a waste product. And these greenhouse gas emissions are the culprits warming and sickening our planet, sickening us,” said Winthrop resident Suzanne Hitchcock-Bryan.

Hitchcock-Bryan is a retired nurse currently working with the Winthrop Board of Health to create a WCAT cable television presentation on plastic bags and health. She credits Winthrop Mothers Out Front for all the doors knocked on, petitions signed, tables manned, meetings attended and for getting on the path to plastic use reduction.

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