Published on: Friday, April 1, 2016 Takoma Park Newsletter

Public hearing on proposed plastic bag ban

The main objective of the proposed Takoma Park Code amendment banning plastic bags is to decrease litter. The City Council will hold a public hearing on April 13 at 7:00 p.m. (see page 3) to receive public comments on the proposed plastic bag ban. The first reading of the ordinance is scheduled for April 27.

“Plastic bags end up being a large portion of litter that we see in the community,” said Daryl Braithwaite, public works director for Takoma Park. “We want to reduce the amount of bags available and get people thinking about what else they can use to carry things.”

Proposed by Councilmember Jarrett Smith (Ward 5), the amendment would restrict businesses from offering disposable plastic shopping bags to customers with some exceptions, including bulk food and hardware, frozen foods, prescription drugs, flowers, potted plants, bakery goods, newspapers and dry cleaning. “The idea is to address the litter and educate people about importance of reducing the amount of plastic bags in circulation,” Braithwaite reiterated.

The Council heard testimony from Julie Lawson, director of Trash Free Maryland, to that effect on Feb. 24 when it discussed the draft ordinance. According to Lawson, in terms of their environmental impact, plastic bags are “the most persistent visual blight and linger as a toxic contaminant to waterways and the aquatic food web.”

Moreover, the Takoma Park Committee on the Environment (COE) has endorsed the ban on disposable single-use carryout bags: “The COE notes that besides the environmental benefits of a single-use bag ban, plastic bag recycling is not possible at this time through the City of Takoma Park, and litter is a concern in several neighborhoods.”

In addition, the COE supports including the farmers market in the ban with an implementation date that allows time for compliance. However, based on Braithwaite’s reading of the proposed ordinance, the farmers market would be exempt, which would allow for plastic bags to be used to carry home produce, baked goods, meats and so on. (For a list of exceptions, reference section B of the ordinance, which can be found on the City’s website in the agenda materials for the Council’s Feb. 24 meeting.)

Still local farmers are concerned about how the ban would impact their business. As their local representative, Laura Barclay, executive director of the Old Takoma Business Association, has compiled and provided comments to the City Council on their behalf: “The market is strongly opposed to the market being included in a City-wide plastic bag ban. If the ban is passed, the market requests an exemption as has been made for farmers markets in other municipalities.”

Further, the farmers noted that “the market continues to look for new ways to innovate and promote itself and wants to protect itself from any changes that might create a competitive disadvantage, like a plastic bag ban.”

Anyone interested in offering comments should attend the public hearing and sign up to speak. Written comments may be submitted to the City Clerk, 7500 Maple Ave., Takoma Park, MD 20912 or by email to