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Contributing Reporters on this Newscast: Sharon Johnson

Somerville may join the growing list of Commonwealth cities and towns that ban or restrict the use of plastic bags, and neither city officials nor most of those questioned in the streets recently oppose the idea.

The proposal, promoted by Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz for years, was discussed at a May 27 meeting of the Environment and Energy Special Committee of the Board of Aldermen. Assistant City Solicitor Matthew Buckley told Gewirtz and Ward 7 Alderman Katjana Ballatyne, chair of the committee, that his office sees no problem with a ban.
“It is completely legally defensible to draft a plastic bag ordinance,” Buckley said.
Scores of cities and towns across the country already ban or limit the use of plastic bags.
Nantucket, Brookline, Manchester and Great Barrington all have laws.
On May 27, the committee examined the Brookline law, which prohibits retail outlets of 2,500 square feet or larger from using non-compostable or non-marine degradable plastic bags. The law includes retailers with at least three locations under the same name within the town of Brookline that total 2,500 square feet or more.
Alderman Ballantyne asked Buckley and his office to redraft the ordinance for Somerville before the next committee meeting.
“We’re going to be checking in with all of these towns and asking, ‘How’s it working out?’” Buckley promised.
Several shoppers at local stores said they would adjust if the law were to be enacted.
“I use a lot of plastic bags, I’m not going to lie,” said Ann Johnson, her cart full of Market Basket bags. “But if they were to do away with them, and there were nothing but paper bags, people would have to make due with paper bags.”
Chris Templeman, a father who uses plastic bags for diapers, also said he wouldn’t mind the ban.
“It would probably get me to use the reusable ones,” he said.
Gewirtz told Somerville Neighborhood News that she is happy the ban is moving forward. She originally proposed it in 2008.
“We really have a climate crisis,” Gewirtz said.
Scientists estimate plastic bags last for between 20 and 1,000 years in the environment, clogging rivers, streams, drainage pipes and filling up landfills. Plastic is made from petroleum.
“We’re living like there’s no tomorrow, and there is a tomorrow,” Gewirtz added. “We want a future for our kids, and our kids’ kids. That’s not how we’re living, so we need to start adjusting.”
Somerville Neighborhood News is a production of Somerville Community Access Television, made by professional journalists, volunteers and staff. The half-hour news show has as its mission to provide a lively, informative newscast focusing on the events, issues and information impacting Somerville residents.

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