Salisbury announces start date, details for single-use plastic bag ban

SALISBURY, Md. – If you live in Salisbury, get ready to say goodbye to single-use plastic bags.

“It’s our mission as stewards of this city to act when we know we can address the issues we know me must. That’s precisely what we’re doing,” said Mayor Jake Day at a Monday press conference.

Banning The Bags

Starting July 1st, 2023, single-use plastic bags are banned from retail and restaurant establishments in Salisbury. Paper bags will cost shoppers ten cents a pop. Mayor Day says the money will go directly back to the businesses.

“The legislation assesses a ten-cent fee per bag. These funds don’t come to the government. They stay with the retailer to cover the cost of the paper bags. They are not transferred as a tax,” said Mayor Day.

The ban doesn’t apply to all types of single-use plastic bags.

“If you get a bag of apples, for example, that are already pre-packaged in one of those plastic bags, then those are of course exempt,” said Chair of Salisbury’s Green Team Committee, Elise Trelegan. “It’s the same thing with if you’re going to buy a goldfish at PetSmart or something like that. There are some logical exemptions that you’ll find in the bill.”

Need For Change

Mayor Day says discussions around banning single-use plastic bags in the city came from concerns both physical, and mechanical.

“Once discarded, this type of plastic is easily blown around due to its light weight, meaning you can find them just about anywhere. You can find them in our river, you can find them reducing to microplastic contaminating fish and other wildlife,” said Mayor Day. “Even when they’re sent for recycling by well-intentioned citizens trying to do the right thing, the bags are a constant nuisance, jamming recycling equipment.”

Before Salisbury City Council unanimously adopted the ban, the City and multiple public stakeholders reached out to the business community for their input.

“They were willing to step up and say even if there’s a cost, there’s a greater cost that we avoid by protecting our planet through the decisions that we make today, by what materials we will use as packaging for our goods,” said Mayor Day. “Community outreach is important when we’ve got critical questions about which direction we should go, and then how to get there.”

A Shift In Shopping

As the City prepared to make the shift from single-use plastic bags, businesses raised some concerns.

“Those conversations illuminated things like the backlog or the stock of plastic bags that some of these businesses have; the decisions that some businesses have made to try to do the right thing by buying a different type of plastic,” said Mayor Day.

Trelegan says with that in mind, the City settled on a six month time frame to make the switch.

“How are we going to draw down our supply that we already have? That’s why we have the six-month rule. This will give ample time to businesses to prepare,” said Trelegan. “Right over the border, ten miles north of here in Delaware, they’ve already adopted a statewide plastic bag ban. So, we can do a lot of learning from the businesses in that community.”

Even with those lessons to be learned, Mayor Day says a one size fits all solution lifted from other existing bans wouldn’t have fit Salisbury.

“What we would have found, I think, had we just dived in, is pitfalls that we wouldn’t have imagined if we didn’t put ourselves in the shoes of the shop owner, the business owner, the manager,” said Mayor Day.

Looking Ahead

Mayor Day says he gets it; this will take some adjustment. But, he argues the cost of making this switch outweighs the cost that plastics have on the environment.

“If convenience is what’s most important to us, we’re going to make a lot of bad decisions. Historically, I think as humans make a lot of decisions out of convenience,” said Mayor Day. “We owe it to ourselves, and to every future generation of Salisburians to act decisively when we know that change is necessary.”

City leaders say they intend to keep working with local businesses to address any future issues that may come up. For more information about the ban, click here.

Categories: Business, Environment, Local News, Maryland