Plastic bag ordinance nixed

Man who proposed it wants a referendum

  • Jonathon Bowen of Greenfield bags up a customer's groceries in plastic at Foster's on Tuesday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Jonathon Bowen of Greenfield bags up a customer's groceries in plastic at Foster's on Tuesday.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell

  • Jonathon Bowen of Greenfield bags up a customer's groceries in plastic at Foster's on Tuesday.<br/>Recorder/Mciky Bedell

    Jonathon Bowen of Greenfield bags up a customer's groceries in plastic at Foster's on Tuesday.
    Recorder/Mciky Bedell

  • Jonathon Bowen of Greenfield bags up a customer's groceries in plastic at Foster's on Tuesday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • Jonathon Bowen of Greenfield bags up a customer's groceries in plastic at Foster's on Tuesday.<br/>Recorder/Mciky Bedell

GREENFIELD — A citizen-proposed ordinance that would ban plastic bags from being used at checkout counters throughout Greenfield may be headed to the voters.

Garrett Connelly, a Congress Street resident who is a member of Greening Greenfield, said he is going to withdraw his proposal before the Town Council, but has not given up on the idea.

“I felt like I provided a leadership opportunity for the Town Council,” said Connelly, who placed his idea before the council last fall.

“I guess I was naïve that this would be their job,” he said this week after further delays by the council in advancing his idea.

Connelly said he understands that the council has been approached by people, especially local retailers, who are against such a ban, but he said he feels after talking with people on the street that the ordinance has teeth and would pass if the voters get their say.

The ordinance he proposes would ban any plastic bag with a thickness of 2.5 mils or less. A mil is a measurement equal to one-thousandth of an inch. Bags that would be exempt in Connelly’s ordinance include those used for dry cleaning, newspapers, produce, meat, bulk foods and wet items.

According to Multi-Pak USA Inc., a supplier of plastic bags, grocery bags used in local grocery stores like Foster’s, Big Y and Stop and Shop are 0.5 mils thick, while dry cleaning bags are 0.74 mils thick.

Town Council slowed its review of the proposed ordinance earlier this year after a number of local merchants expressed their concerns, including the hardship it would cause the retailers and their customers when they had to pass the increased costs along.

Representatives from Foster’s, Big Y and Stop & Shop recently met with six councilors to discuss the plastic bag recycling programs they all have in place.

Town Council Vice President Hillary Hoffman said the town may not need an ordinance, because she believes merchants seem to be willing to recycle and encourage their customers to use reusable bags.

“I think this is more about educating the public,” said Hoffman.

Connelly said he wants to see things go further than that, though.

“We have to do something about plastic,” said Connelly. “This isn’t an argument with the council or anyone, it’s just what I believe needs to be done.”

Connelly said he and others he has been working with would like to prove by a town vote that the “citizens of Greenfield want this.”

Connelly said he copied the language of Great Barrington’s plastic bag ordinance, one of the few in Massachusetts.

“The attorney general has already approved Great Barrington’s, so if we pass the same one, we’ll be able to implement it almost immediately,” he said.

The state attorney general would have to approve the ordinance, even if it passed by an overwhelming majority.

It’s too late to get a plastics ban question on the June town election ballot. The next two elections are statewide elections, and getting a referendum on those ballots would require a special act of the Legislature, according to Town Clerk Deborah Tuttle. The next opportunity to get on a purely local referendum requiring only local petitioners would be next spring.

Another possibility would be for Connelly to put a nonbinding public opinion advisory question on a local ballot, but that would require a vote by Town Council, with approval of the mayor, to do so.

It appears the earliest Connelly could get something on the ballot is 2015.

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