Takoma Park bans use of disposable plastic bags in checkout aisles

The Takoma Park Silver Spring Food Co-op quit using plastic bags in 2014. (ABC7)

TAKOMA PARK, Md. (ABC7) – In yet its latest progressive, tree-hugging move, Takoma Park is parting ways with the use of disposable plastic bags in store checkout aisles.

The ordinance, which took effect on December 1, bans retail establishments within the bohemian-esque city of 17,000 residents from supplying customers with plastic bags.

The legislation, enacted by the seven-member city council, states that plastic bags have, “short and long term adverse effects to marine ecosystems, solid waste management, global resource consumption and litter.”

At the Old Takoma Ace Hardware, employees had not gotten the anti-plastic memo. A stash of brown plastic bags was still in place behind the front counter.

"I had no idea,” a female cashier said with a laugh. “Most people don’t even ask for plastic though. They either bring their own bags or carry [merchandise] out on their own.”

Although many businesses, like Ace Hardware, are still adjusting, the Takoma Park Silver Spring Food Co-op doesn't have to change a thing. The non-profit grocery store, founded in 1980, voluntarily nixed the use of plastic bags in 2014.

“Yeah, it won’t affect us,” co-op board member Emily Townsend stated. "I think it's ridiculous that we produce so many plastic bags for single use, only to get thrown away. I wholeheartedly support this new law."

At the register, co-op cashiers offer customers paper bags for five cents each. Townsend, however, estimates 90 percent of shoppers bring their own reusable bags.

"It's perfect, I’m really pleased. I'm surprised it wasn't in existence before this,” co-op customer Mary Pat Brennan said. "My daughter is a climate scientist so I understand how important this is."

The new ordinance does make a few exceptions. For example, disposable plastic bags containing dry cleaning and newspapers are exempt from the ban. Produce bags and the sale of garbage and sandwich bags will also be unaffected.

Violating businesses will be subject to a $100 fine for their first offense, and a $200 fine for all repeat offenses. That said, an individual business cannot receive more than one citation per week.

According to Takoma Park officials, around 90 cities across the United States currently prohibit the use of plastic bags. It’s unclear if Montgomery County or other local government jurisdictions will follow suit.

"I don't think the laws are what make Takoma Park unique, I think the people who live here make Takoma Park unique and the laws are a reflection of the priorities of the people who live here,” Townsend concluded.

To read the full language of Takoma Park's plastic bag ban, click here.

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