CLPA Policy Staff
Bill to Reduce the Use of Plastic Carryout Bags in Second Reading (PGC Council)
CB-032-2023, the Better Bag Bill, is in its second reading in the Prince George's County Council. The Better Bag Bill aims to reduce the use of plastic carryout bags in retail establishments in the County.
If enacted, retail establishments would be prohibited from providing plastic carryout bags to customers once the sale is completed. Customers will, instead, be required to pay a minimum charge for paper and reusable carryout bags provided by the retail establishment, with certain exceptions. This change is intended to incentivize customers to bring their own reusable bags when shopping.
The legislative intent behind the Better Bag Bill is to address the negative environmental impacts associated with the use of single-use plastic carryout bags. Nationwide these bags are among the top five plastic products collected in beach cleanups and are responsible for the millions of tons of plastic that end up in the oceans annually. These single-use plastic bags stay in the environment for generations by eventually degrading into microplastic particles that absorb toxic chemicals that humans and animals ingest. Additionally, these bags end up in waterways where they are ingested by marine life, often with deadly results.
The bill also notes that single-use plastic carryout bags are not recyclable at the County's recycling facility and levy costs on the county government and taxpayers. These costs are seen through removing litter and repairing recycling machinery due to improper disposal. These single-use plastic bags are made from fossil fuels emitting harmful greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of their life cycle, from extraction to production to disposal, contributing to climate change. The bill aims to reduce the distribution of single-use carryout bags and incentivize reusable bags to promote county residents' and visitors' health, safety, and welfare.
The primary sponsors of this bill are Councilmembers Dernoga, Blegay, Olson, Ivey, and Watson. If there are further questions about the intent or unclear details about Better Bag Bill, please follow up with their office.
Key sections of the bill
Sec. 19-164. Prohibited Acts; Paper and Reusable Carryout Bag Charge.
(a) After December 31, 2023, a retail establishment may not provide a plastic carryout bag to a customer.
(b) (1) After December 31, 2023, with certain exceptions, a retail establishment shall charge, collect, and retain at least 10 cents for each paper carryout bag and reusable carryout bag that it provides to a customer.
(2) The charge for paper carryout bags shall not apply to a paper bag containing prescription medication provided by a pharmacy to a customer.
(3) The charge for paper carryout bags shall not apply to a paper bag containing prepared food provided at the drive-through window of a restaurant or a paper bag provided by a full-service restaurant after a meal for leftovers.
[(3)] (4) A retail establishment may not advertise, hold out, or state to the public or to a customer, directly or indirectly, that any part of the money collected under paragraph (1) of this subsection will be assumed or absorbed by the establishment or refunded to the customer.
[(4)] (5) Notwithstanding subsections [(1)-(3)] (1)-(4), above, the Department may designate one week per year when retail establishments may provide reusable bags free of charge as a promotion.
[(5)] (6) A retail establishment shall indicate on the customer transaction receipt the number of paper or reusable carryout bags provided by the establishment and the amount charged.
[(6)] (7) A retail establishment [may] shall post a sign at each point of sale such that it is visible to customers and employees during a transaction that states the charge for each paper carryout bag and reusable carryout bag it provides to a customer.
Sec. 19-166. Penalty; notice of violation.
(a) Subject to subsection (b) of this section, a retail establishment that violates the provisions of this Division is subject to a civil penalty not exceeding $500.
(b) (1) (i) the provision of one or more plastic carryout bags at a single point of sale is a single violation.
(ii) the failure to charge the amount of money required under this Division for the provision of one or more paper or reusable carryout bags at a single point of sale is a single violation.
(2) a penalty may not be imposed under this section unless a retail establishment:
(i) is first issued a written notice of violation; and
(ii) does not correct the violation within 7 days after receipt of the written notice.