The City Council recently cast a unanimous vote to ban the use of plastic bags in Everett.
During the November 8 meeting, Ward 2 Councillor Stephanie Martins, a cosponsor of the ordinance, said 144 communities have banned plastic bags. With less than two months left in the year, Martins asked her colleagues to take a final vote rather than send the matter to the Committee on Legislative Affairs. “A motion to send this item to committee is actually a motion to kill this item,” she said, adding that there would not be enough time to discuss the ordinance in committee and then move it back before the council.
Councillor-at-Large Richard Dell Isola, who also sponsored the ordinance, said the council has successfully tackled much larger environmental issues in the past. “This is just plastic bags,” he said. “This should go right where it needs to go, not to a committee.”
However, Ward 6 Councillor Michael McLaughlin said it is not necessary to rush the matter and that additional discussion is needed. “To say that we can’t get this out of committee is absolutely bogus,” he said. “We’ve gone back and forth on topics that were much less sensitive than this one.”
McLaughlin also said a number of seniors have expressed that they only frequent certain businesses because handled plastic bags are available. “The seniors and the small business owners have a right to be heard,” he said.
Councillor-at-Large Michael Marchese also did not agree with how the ordinance was being handled. “Forget about the process – like the bags can’t wait another two months,” he said.
Ward 5 Councillor Rosa DiFlorio suggested amending the ordinance so that it would take effect on April 1, 2022, rather than on the first of the year. “You have to give the business people enough time to get rid of the plastic bags,” she said. “They’ve already been hit by COVID; finances are really bad – let’s be fair.”
Martins said there was no reason to belabor the matter any longer. “It’s done, we can either vote it up or down,” she said.
In addition, Councillor-at-Large John Hanlon was curious about how trash would be handled without plastic bags. He said that prior to using plastic bags, food waste, known as swill, would be picked up once a week and taken to a site on Route 128 where it was fed to pigs. “Nobody younger can imagine what that smell was like; it was terrible,” he said, adding that the swill was poisoning the pigs. “Then along came the plastic bags.” Therefore, Hanlon recommended finding a new environmentally-friendly and odorless way to dispose of swill.
Resident Katie Rogers was in favor of banning plastic bags. “Everett generates more than one million single-use plastic bags per month,” she said. “They travel in the wind, get tangled in trees and can be life-threatening to animals. Change is overdue.”