Over six years in the making, the Pittsfield City Council will finally vote on a plastic bag ban in the city.

After being recommended by the Committee of Ordinances and Rules in a unanimous vote, the ban on thin film plastic bags which leaves the option to allow for reusable and compostable bags, will go before the entire Council for a final vote.

The majority of the subcommittee's discussion, and eventual approval of the ban, centered around exceptions for certain types of single use plastic bags, and more specifically the use of biodegradable bags.

According to The Berkshire Eagle,  the subcommittee used the city of Boston's ordinance as a guide for their discussion, which the capital city's council recently passed. Their draft makes exceptions for bags used to hold produce and meats at the grocery store, as well as those used for newspapers and dry cleaning.

Councilor At Large Melissa Mazzeo and Ward 6 Councilor John Krol went back and forth on the use of compostable bags, with Mazzeo in favor of including their use in the ban, and Krol arguing against. Mazzeo voiced concerns that the ban could create another problem with people using too many paper bags, while Krol believes that materials in compostable bags are only slightly better than plastic.

In a letter read at the meeting from Jane Winn, executive director of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team and a member of the city's Green Commission, she stated that microplastics found in compostable bags pose "a huge emerging environmental problem."

After the discussion, the committee voted to keep the compostable bag option, with Councilor Krol and Councilor White dissenting.

In addition to the biodegradable bag option, Councilor Krol moved for the ban to require stores to charge at least five cents per bag offered at the register, in order to encourage use of reusable bags.  The Price Chopper on Pittsfield Lenox Road, although not in the City of Pittsfield, uses that policy. That measure passed 3-2, with Councilor Mazzeo and Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers dissenting.

It is possible the council could vote on the ban at their next meeting, Tues. Feb. 12 depending on how fast the ordinance is reviewed by the City Solicitor.

If approved, the ban would take effect this September.

91 municipalities in Massachusetts, including seven in Berkshire County have already adopted a plastic bag ban.


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