The Plastic Bag Reduction Act is Being Debated During the 2021 MGA Session

By the Maryland Legislative Coalition — Climate Justice Wing

& Susan Olsen, Mike Pretl Fellow

The average American uses 10 plastic bags per week (520 per year) requiring the same petroleum that it takes to drive 60 miles according to the Center for Biological Diversity.  Plastic bags are also one of the top forms of litter throughout Maryland.  As they degrade in the environment, they become microplastics that harm marine life and wildlife, disrupt ecosystems, and cause costly issues to stormwater and solid waste management.

There is also an ultimate impact on humans. The potential health effects on humans of plastic particles, their additives, and the toxins they absorb from the environment are of great concern.  It is now estimated that humans are ingesting as much as a credit card’s worth of plastic every week.

According to the website Waste Management, only one percent of plastic bags are recycled.  The rest end up in landfills, are incinerated, or become litter.  Plastic bags are often used to bundle newspapers or other recyclables.  These plastic bags often end up clogging up recycling machines which require costly repairs.  Since they are made from petroleum, plastic bags contribute to greenhouse gas emissions through extraction, manufacture, transport, use and disposal. 

This proposed bill will ban plastic bags under 4 mils in thickness which would cover all single use bags currently in use by retailers as well as compostable plastic bags which have been shown to not deteriorate in the environment naturally.  The ban will apply to all retailers, not only those selling food and/or beverages, with a few exemptions, such as bags used for produce, bulk goods, deli meat, newspaper, fresh flowers, and dry cleaning.