Boston just became Massachusetts’ 60th town to pass a ban on plastic bags. Mayor Martin Walsh recently signed the measure, which will go into effect next December – and a statewide ban is pending before the legislature.

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357 million single-use plastic bags will be used in Boston this year, according to Metro. Councilor Matt O’Malley, lead sponsor of the measure, said 20 tons of plastic bags are tossed into Boston’s single-stream recycling every single month – and workers must spend hours every day extracting bags from equipment.

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That’s to say nothing of the environmental impact of plastic bags. O’Malley told Metro, “Plastic bags are only used for an average of 12 minutes, but their impact on the city’s streets and drains is permanent. They end up in streets, storm gutters, trees, and tangled in our wildlife and marine ecosystem.” These environmental arguments helped sway the mayor, who said he signed it for benefits such as cutting down litter.

When the ban takes effect, shoppers will need to pay five cents for aarger paper bags or thicker, compostable plastic bags – or use reusable bags. Stores will collect the money to help offset the cost of the bags, which are more expensive.

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But not everyone is happy with the plastic bag ban. Critics of the measure said it was basically a tax on the poor. Local Deborah Branting told the Boston Globe she’s been stockpiling plastic bags, describing the ban as “an unnecessary inconvenience for people who are financially less fortunate.”

American Progressive Bag Alliance executive director Matt Seaholm said in a statement the ban “incentivizes the use of products that can be worse for the environment than 100 percent recyclable, highly reused plastic retail bags.”

O’Malley said he will work with all stakeholders to carry out the ban and “ensure that every Bostonian has access to reusable bags.”

Via TreeHugger, the Boston Globe, and Metro

Images via Depositphotos and votsek on Flickr