Maryland moves closer to banning plastic grocery bags

The days of single-use plastic grocery bags may be coming to a close in Maryland, thanks to a new bill making its way through the state’s legislature.

Maryland’s House of Delegates passed a bill that would ban single-use plastic bags most commonly seen at the grocery store. Though lawmakers recognized there would need to be exceptions for items like produce, meat, and ice, which tend to get wrapped in plastic bags before mixing with other items in your cart and bags.

“There are a lot of folks that worship at the altar of the new religion of environmentalism — I get that,” said Del. Haven Shoemaker (R-Carroll County). “But as the hippies used to say back in the 60s: That ain’t my bag.”

Shoemaker then rhetorically asked, “When are we going to stop banning stuff?”

He wrapped up his remarks by saying he’ll be “voting to sack this bill,” with the pun very likely intended.

“It is OK to be opposed to pollution,” Del. Kumar Barve (D-Montgomery County) argued at a time when the debate of the bill was still focused on the environment, “but not then simultaneously opposed to measures to get rid of pollution.”

Eventually the debate turned toward the convenience and experience of grocery shopping today, and the impact reusable bags have on shopping. Delegates from both sides burnished their credentials by making sure their colleagues knew who did the grocery shopping at home.

“You can put so much more food in that reusable bag than you could ever put in all the plastic bags that are given to you,” said Del. Stephanie Smith (D-Baltimore City). “I don’t know about you, but a lot of us want to make one trip from the car to the house … right? You don’t care how many bags you have on your finger — you’re about to die but you’re like ‘I’m not going back.’ You can actually do that safely, with grace and style, because you might only have three bags, as opposed to the 50 bags that have one thing in it. You’ll look better. Your neighbors won’t be looking out like ‘come on, whatever.'”

Del. Seth Howard (R-Anne Arundel County) rationalized his vote against the bill with a reference to the new coronavirus.

“I’m concerned about germ transmission,” he said on the House floor. “Looking at articles right now from USA Today and other sources talking about chloroform, e-coli, fecal material being found on reusable bags and I — just out of a sensitivity to today’s climate — I’m very concerned about the germ transmission in the reusable bags.”

In the end the bill passed in the House 95-37, and now heads to the state Senate.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up