The City Council today unanimously approved a measure that would ban thin plastic shopping bags and enact a 5-cent fee on paper bags and thicker plastic bags, as a way of reducing litter, helping the environment and curbing the use of the oil required to make them.
The measure, proposed by City Councilor Matt O'Malley (West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain) and Michelle Wu (at large), would go into effect in a year if approved by Mayor Walsh.
O'Malley said the measure would save the city money just in reducing the amount of bags the city's recycling company is now forced to spend "hours each day" picking out of recycling collections - in addition to leading to cleaner streets and parks and reducing the amount of plastic that birds and other creatures now consume inadvertently.
"Their convenience does not outweigh the significant costs associated with them," O'Malley said.
O'Malley estimated city residents now use 357 million of the bags a year. The proposed 5-cent fee would be a way to "incentivize" residents to increase their use of reusable bags without being too onerous, he said.
At the same time, Councilor Ayanna Pressley (at large) urged the city to look at ways to distribute free reusable bags in low-income neighborhoods and among seniors. She noted that people who shop at some supermarkets, such as Save-a-Lot in Roxbury, already face a fee for getting store-supplied fees - and that shoppers there are showing their preference for a more environmentally friendly future.