With neighboring communities moving toward banning plastic shopping bags, members of a citizens group said this may be the time to do so in Watertown, too.
ReThink Plastic held a community meeting on Tuesday night, and presented their findings about bag bans in communities around Massachusetts and in other states.
The first town to put in a ban was Brookline, which required all businesses 2,500 sq. ft. in size or larger, including restaurants where take out is more than half the income. Also retailers with three or more locations in town or pharmacies with at least two locations in town. There is a $50 fine for the first fine, $100 for subsequent offenses. The town also bans use of styrofoam.
The ban cut back 90 percent of the plastic bags in town, said Clint Richmond, who worked on putting the ban into effect in Brookline.
“We had a size exemption because we were the pioneers,” Richmond said. “Others since then do not have an exemption.”
Other alternatives tried by communities is having a charge for bags. In Monterey, California plastic bags are banned and paper bags are still available, but they cost 25 cents.
The state Legislature is also looking at a bag ban as part of the Bottle Bill, which is currently being considered by the House Ways and Means Committee, said State Rep. Jonathan Hecht. There are exceptions in that legislation for businesses under 4,500 sq. ft., he said.
The group spoke to owners of three independent markets in the Belmont-Watertown Local First area, Buck said.
“The all agree it is a good goal, but they are concerned about the cost of reusable bags,” Buck said.
Resident Russ Arico said he does not like the idea of preventing businesses or people from having the option of plastics.
“I use plastic bags for half a dozen different purposes. By eliminating them I have to buy extra plastic bags,” ” Arico said. “The word ban bothers me. This country was not founded on on he basis of restricting behaviors.”
One of the groups that has expressed most concern about not having the plastic bags is dog owners, who use them to clean up after their dogs.
Town Councilor Aaron Dushku recommended that ReThink Plastic give a presentation to the Council. He believes the group should ask for what they want, and said there may be changes to make the proposal agreeable to most or all Councilors.
“I’m for aiming high and seeing where we end up,” Dushku said.
Along with moving toward eliminating use of the plastic bags, ReThink Plastic also hopes to educate people about bringing reusable bags to the store. They have suggestions such as hanging them on the front doorknob or keeping them in the car so you do not forget them.
They also have workshops for making your own bags out of old T-shirts. One is coming up at the retail kiosks at the Arsenal on the Charles (near Panera) on Thursday, Aug. 14 from 2-6 p.m.
ReThink Plastic started about a year ago, with members of other Watertown groups such as Watertown Citizens for Peach, Justice and the Environment, Watertown Recycles and Sustainable Watertown. The group watched the film “Bag It” and decided to start looking into ways to cut down the number of plastic bags used in town, said Watertown Citizens President Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin.
“I don’t think any of us would think we would be here today (talking about a ban),” Hershman-Tcherepnin said. “I am thrilled and excited.”
More information on plastic bag bans can be found on the Watertown Citizens website, http://watertowncitizens.org.