LETTER: Resident Critical of Council for Passing Single-Use Bag Ban

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On June 7, 2016 the Town of Watertown’s Town Council (Council) voted to enact, “AN ORDINANCE FOR A SINGLE­USE PLASTIC BAG REDUCTION” (Ordinance) thus eliminating one more personal choice for Watertown residents at the behest of a minority of people and their agenda.

The Ordinance’ position is overly broad and flawed. It puts town based retailers at a distinct competitive disadvantage while inconveniencing everyone who patronizes them. Worse, in its current inflexible iteration it is punitive, where it not only fines our local retailers for non­-compliance, but can make town employees ordinance enforcement officials at the whim of the Town Manager.

What is striking is that while the Council knew the Ordinance’ inherent flaws, Council moved to pass it anyway. Those who most vociferously supported this needless Ordinance did so to honor the past opponents of plastic bags or, oddly, out of an urgency to out legislate state and federal governments.

Thus, our current Council clearly prioritizes

  • Whims of the past over the current lives of the people of Watertown
  • Besting state and federal laws at the expense of protecting our choices
  • Enacting an admittedly flawed Ordinance that punishes our local businesses

Council’s proclivity towards acting in the role of nanny to a group of people who neither desire or want childminding is downright intrusive. How much more does the Council get to take from us, before we stop them from intruding on our freedoms?


Elan Rohde
Resident of Watertown, MA.

4 thoughts on “LETTER: Resident Critical of Council for Passing Single-Use Bag Ban

  1. It’s pain to have to put your purchase in your own purse or bag. You know what else is a pain?
    Gathering up all those bags to bring back to the grocery store. But I guess they can just be thrown away.
    Looking out the window and seeing one of those single-use plastic bags in a tree, beyond your reach, and have to watch it flutter like some alien creature til it finally tears and falls to earth, to be blown into the storm sewer and finally out to sea, to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch the size of Turkey.
    You know what’s good, inexpensive marketing, even for small businesses? A reusable bag with your establishment’s name on it.
    I’m sorry that your desire to do whatever the hell you want is sometimes inconvenienced by the fact you have to live with other people. But plastic is forever – it does not break down; it never goes “away”. So, like so many things, you can try to ameliorate the problem now, or you can let your grandchildren deal with your profligacy long after you’re dead.

    • Bravo! The plastic bags are a ridiculous waste of resources and an egregious source of environmental pollution. We only have one planet to live on. We have to take care of it. Kudos to our little town for being a leader on this issue!

  2. Several points in response to Elan Rhode criticism.
    1. I worked with many others on this ordinance which is now titled “Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance” It is our sincere desire that by passing this ordinance, it will be easy to incorporate re-usable bags into shopping trips. Rather than being a nuisance or intrusion, it will become just another routine.
    2. Should we really mourn the loss of a personal choice to get an ugly, environmentally damaging plastic bag when we will now an opportunity to exercise personal choice from a wide selection of colorful, creative, and beautiful designed reusable bags?
    3. There is no evidence that local retailers will be at a distinct competitive disadvantage with this ordinance. In our visits to many local retailers many expressed a sympathetic understanding of the need for the ban and a willingness to work under it. The advantage of a ban that applies across the board is that it gives no distinct advantage to anyone and makes compliance easier.
    4. Watertown Town Councilors discussed and considered this ordinance several times in the past year and a half. Their deliberations were serious and thoughtful. I am very pleased that they understood the value of a community wide response to a serious environmental problem. Rather than a “childminding attitude”, this act takes the very adult position that there is a need for a communal commitment to protect the environment and an individual responsibility for everyone to do their share. By passing the Bag Ordinance, our Town Council has provided the leadership and framework for us to take responsibility.

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