HOT BUTTON ISSUE: Will Wilmington Ban Plastic Bags From Grocery And Retail Stores? (Article 48)

WILMINGTON, MA – At Saturday’s Annual Town Meeting, residents will have the opportunity to ban Wilmington stores from using single use plastic bags (Article 48).

Wilmington college student Julianne Hooper, daughter of the town’s Public Buildings Director George Hooper, has successfully petitioned Selectmen to place an article on the warrant to amend the town’s inhabitant bylaws (Chapter 5, Public Regulations) by adding a new section to ban single use plastic bags at retail, food and grocery establishments.

“The purpose of this bylaw is to limit the amount of plastic that enters and impacts the environment of Wilmington, and reduce the amount of trash that ends up on the streets and in landfills by using recyclable, reusable, or compostable bags instead of thin-film, single-use plastic checkout bags,” wrote Hooper on the petition.

If the plastic bag ban is enacted, residents would be encouraged to utilize reusable shopping bags. If shoppers wanted to use paper bags, stores could determine a fee to offset the cost.

The ban would apply to grocery stores, food establishments, and retail establishments, including – but not limited to – convenience stories, liquor stores, pharmacies, clothing stories, jewelry stores, household goods stores, seasonal and temporary businesses, and any other business that offers that sale and display or merchandise.

Exceptions to the ban would include any plastic bags intended for produce/meat, newspapers, and laundry/dry cleaning articles.

According to the Sierra Club, more than 70 Massachusetts cities and towns – representing more than 1/3 of the state’s population – have already passed a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags. Nearby communities include Andover, Reading and Wakefield.

In late March, the Wilmington DPW issued a reminder to residents not to place plastic bags in their recycling as it will have a detrimental financial impact to the town.

The announcement read, in part: “Plastic bags get caught in the separators and jam the mechanism which will bring the entire sorting station to a halt. The plastic bags that are tangled in the machinery must be untangled and removed by hand. Time is money at these facilities so towns will endure the additional costs going forward.”

While no residents spoke out against or in favor the article at the Joint Planning Board & Finance Committee Public Hearing on the warrant, reaction on Wilmington’s Facebook groups has been mixed, with opponents arguing – in large part – they reuse their plastic bags for practical purposes.

Both candidates in this year’s Selectmen’s race came out against the measure. New Selectman Jonathan Eaton noted that the local business community was never consulted about the measure, suggesting some local retail owners may be against the change.

Wilmington Community Television intern Hayden Kane recently produced a brief PSA on this article, capturing both sides of the argument. View it below:

Wilmington’s Annual Town Meeting will take place on Saturday, May 5 at 10:30am in the Wilmington High School Auditorium.

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