Annapolis may ban retail use of plastic bags

Business community's reaction is mixed

if bill passes, violators could be fined up to $500

October 26, 2007|By Nicole Fuller

A group of Annapolis business owners expressed support yesterday for a bill that would ban plastic bags from use at city retail outlets, while acknowledging the move could negatively affect their bottom lines.

"If little shops like us are changing, I think the bigger shops can follow suit," said Gary Amoth, owner of the Hard Bean Coffee and Booksellers in downtown Annapolis. He estimated it would cost him a penny and a half more to begin buying paper bags.

"It's a bit more expensive for me to do, there's no question," Amoth said. "But I think the greater good will outweigh the bad."

Amoth spoke at a news conference yesterday with about 10 other Annapolis business owners, and Alderman Samuel E. Shropshire, the bill's sponsor.

Under the bill, all retailers and restaurants would have to provide recyclable paper bags or reusable bags or be fined up to $500. The aim is to protect the environment, particularly the Chesapeake Bay, and to curb consumption, said Shropshire, a Ward 7 Democrat.

He said he knows the potential strain on small businesses, and his legislation will give them ample time to comply. Shropshire said the full council is expected to vote on the bill Nov. 18.

Meanwhile, a representative of the Annapolis Business Association, a group that represents about 140 city businesses, said yesterday that the group is not in favor of the legislation. The ABA said in a statement:

"The ABA strongly supports the aggressive recycling of all paper and plastic products to protect the environment and most particularly the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The ABA supports the use of re-usable bags where possible. The decision to recycle products is a personal choice and cannot be legislated. If legislation is enacted, it should allow merchants to adapt and not create an undue hardship on the business, in particular those which have a multi-year inventory of plastic bags."

C. Chance Walgran, an ABA board member, said, "We are in fact somewhat upset by Alderman Shropshire's indication that Annapolis businesses are in favor of this ban. We are certainly as a group, in favor of anything to improve the bay and the environment.

"What we're opposed to is a city-only ban," Walgran said. "The bottom line is, it's already difficult to start and run a business in Annapolis. And adding this to the pile, if you will, is just one more thing that makes this a difficult place to start a business."

At Laurance Clothing on Main Street, where Walgran is a manager, he said the store already uses paper bags. "We have, by the way, used recycled paper bags for at least five years," Walgran said.

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