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Plastic bag fee for Howard County

Controversial measure takes effect Thursday
Posted at 3:37 PM, Sep 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 17:45:27-04

HIGHLAND, Md. — Proponents are quick to point out it’s not a tax, it’s just a five-cent fee on plastic bags that takes effect on Thursday in Howard County, because shoppers can choose not to use them, but the owner of Boarman’s Old Fashioned Meat Market in Highland doesn’t like the alternative.

“Most stores don’t want reusable bags in the store, because they’re a breeding ground for COVID,” said Georgie Boarman, a fourth-generation grocer.

But the Howard County Council members who pushed the fee through don’t appear to be concerned.

“I know some stores have asked for a no-touching policy. Only touch the things you want to buy, and stores have changed their policy as they’ve learned more and as the science has shown us that surface contact is a much lower risk than respiratory contact,” said Councilwoman Christiana Mercer-Rigby.

A lower risk, which store owners like Boarman say is too much risk in the midst of a pandemic.

“We’ve asked people not to bring them in and if they do bring them in, they have to bag their own groceries, because I don’t want to risk my employees’ health or anyone else’s health in here,” said Boarman. “We installed a sink out front to make everyone wash hands. Not allowed to wear gloves in.”

The bill’s supporters say while the timing may not be perfect, their bid to help the environment by reducing the use of plastic bags is also long overdo.

“We talk about this all the time,” said Councilman Opel Jones. “It’s very unfortunate for those who do have these hardships, but climate change can’t wait.”

“It makes sense,” responded Boarman. ”I’m not against trying to save the environment, but right now, it just doesn’t make sense. I mean a year from now? Yes. Six months from now. Once we’ve gotten COVID under control, I can see doing something.”

Critics also wonder how the county will track the number of bags sold and the money taken in from those sales.