, Gloucester, MA

April 1, 2013

Editorial: Mitigating factors in bag ban plan

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — When Manchester residents get to Article 25 at their Annual Town Meeting tonight (see news story, Page 1), they will be pulling up the most truly feel-good question of the session.

It’s the article, petitioned by resident Gary Gilbert, that would ban town grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies and others from distributing those ubiquitous plastic bags that many still choose over paper. It’s aimed, of course, at cleaning up the environment — and hey, who doesn’t want to do that, right?

Yet behind this well-intentioned proposal — one that’s got the backing of everyone from local students to Marblehead state Rep. Lori Ehrlich and the Boston-based Environmental Massachusetts lobbying group — are some other factors to consider.

For one, Bob Vello, general manager of Crosby’s Marketplace, notes that the change would not only add to his store’s cost of doing business, it could also cost the store and the town its plastic bag recycling center that is already addressing the perceived plastic pollution. And if residents think a plastic ban within their town is some giant step toward cleaner soil and oceans, they should heed the wise words of longtime Selectman Thomas Kehoe, who reminds us all that “environmental awareness is not legislated, it’s something you teach people.”

Kehoe, who courageously voted “no” when the selectmen were asked to endorse this proposal, said he would rather see Gilbert and other backers of the bylaw work with businesses on a better means of reusing and reducing the number of distributed bags — and he’s right.

Look, limiting the one-time use of these bags is a good idea. But town residents, officials and businesses should work toward a more cooperative solution. That means residents should vote “no” when the current proposal comes up tonight.