GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

May 7, 2013

Editorial: Manchester needs to revisit bag law from the start

Karen Park, who owns Zak’s, says she initially didn’t think the town’s ban on “single-use” plastic bags — rushed into Town Meeting, then happily and naively approved by such a margin that officials never took a vote count — would apply to the bags she distributes at her downtown Manchester store.

And why would she? In the run-up to the April 2 vote, lead petitioner Gary Gilbert and others backing the proposal focused their message on the flimsy bags used as the classic “paper or plastic” choices at markets like Crosby’s, at local pharmacies and at a few other shops – not the colorful, stylized and noticeably thicker Zak’s bags and those used at other shops, bags that shoppers might indeed be inclined to keep and reuse.

Yet the new bylaw, as written in the fine print, noted only that plastic bags with integral handles and a thickness of less than 2.5 mils — or 2.5 one-one thousandths of an inch — would be banned from distribution by stores effective July 1. That includes the bags handed out by Zak’s, North Coast Too! and other downtown stores that are now left holding the bag.

Park, in fact, is holding more than 5,000 of them. She says she supports the concept of a plastic bag ban, she just needs an extension to dispose of them. But she and other Manchester store owners and residents deserve much more than that. They deserve to have this entire bylaw withdrawn or repealed, if indeed it ever gets clearance from the state Attorney General’s office in the first place.

Even Gilbert now admits he and other backers should have spoken with more business owners. As it turns out, the “support” of businesses that Gilbert touted for this ban was drawn from all of eight businesses. And the Manchester Essex Regional Green Team kids, assigned the task of talking to the businesses, according to Francine Caudill of the town’s Coastal Stream Team, never talked to Park, but to a store employee, to get Zak’s “support.” Yikes!

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