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Backlash Over Plastic Bag Ban Triggers Winchester Town Meeting Vote

Apr 25, 2019 10:37PM ● By Lisa Redmond

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While dozens of Massachusetts’ towns have jumped on the bandwagon to ban single-use plastic bags in retail stores, Winchester and Tewksbury will ask their voters at upcoming Town Meetings to buck the environmental trend and repeal existing bans on plastic bags.

As of April,  98 cites and towns across the state have banned single-use plastic shopping bags due to environmental concerns, according the Massachusetts Sierra Club. The Sierra Club estimates residents use more than 2 billion plastic bags per year, posing a threat to wildlife and the environment.

But buried within a list of proposed changes to Winchester’s zoning bylaws, residents at the Annual Town Meeting on Monday, April 29 at will vote on Article 12, a citizen’s petition filed by Anthony Conte, that asks voters to repeal a plastic bag bylaw passed in May 2018.

Conte could not be reached for comment, but in a  letter to the Winchester Star dated April 19, he wrote that banning plastic bags is a “feel good’’ measure designed to make people think that they are doing something positive for the environment when “the reality is different.”

As part of his petition, Conte provided a list of reasons why plastic grocery bags should take their rightful place at the end of the checkout line:

·  Banning plastic bags has raised the already high cost of doing business in Winchester for the small business community.

·  EPA data shows that plastic bags make up only 0.5 percent of the U.S. municipal waste stream.

·  Plastic grocery bags require 70 percent less energy to produce than paper bags.

·  Plastic grocery bags consume less than 4 percent of the water needed to make paper bags.

·  Seven times more truck loads are required to deliver an equal number of paper bags compared to plastic bags.

·  Plastic bags take up to nine times less space as paper bags in a landfill.

·  Plastic bags produce fewer greenhouse gases per use than paper or cotton bags.

·  Plastic bags are recyclable.

·  Reusable bags made from heavier and thicker plastic and cotton require more energy to produce.

·  Only one percent of the plastic found in the world’s oceans comes from the U.S.

·  Plastic grocery bags are often reused as trash bags and banning such bags forces residents to buy more plastic trash bags defeating the purpose of banning plastic grocery bags.

When Winchester Town Meeting voters passed the ban by an overwhelming vote of 119-28 in April 2018, proponent Ingrid Geis said plastic bags pose a risk to wildlife and watersheds, as reported by the Winchester Star.

Geis, who spearheaded the bag ban, noted that plastic bags are simply a pollution issue. Geis could not be reached for comment about Article 12.

Winchester’s ban went into effect in October 2018 for larger retail establishments in town. Small businesses have until May to comply.

Winchester’s 2019 Annual Town Meeting will start at 7:30 p.m. on April 29 at the Winchester High School Auditorium.

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