Monday, August 1, 2011

Chestertown Bans Plastic Bags

Chestertown, a town of about 5000 residents on the Eastern Shore, has banned plastic bags! The ban was the brainchild of Mayor Margo Bailey, who has been pushing for the law for two years. She cites the pollution and litter problem, as well as the petroleum used in the bags' manufacturing, as reasons to eliminate their use within the town's limits.

The law wasn't passed without drama. At a public hearing in March, town resident Kevin Walsh was arrested for disorderly conduct after yelling at police officers, according to the Star-Democrat. He came to the hearing sporting an orange jumpsuit and a tricorn hat, along with a sign of protest.

The vote was delayed until April 4 to allow for some changes, but ultimately passed 3-2. Citizens then mounted a signature campaign to try to put the issue to a vote on the November ballot, but came up short in the number of signatures required. Much of the discontent centered on activists' views that the town government was overstepping its bounds (hence that tricorn hat).

The ordinance goes into effect January 19, nine months after its effective date. It prohibits the distribution of single-use plastic bags by merchants within town, except by take-out food businesses and for compostable plastic bags. Fines are $100 for a first offense, and $200 for subsequent offenses. The language of the ordinance is posted on www.chestertown.com.

Chestertown is the county seat of Kent County, and has two major grocery stores, Acme and SuperFresh. Thus this ban will have an impact on shoppers from around the county, who drive to the town for errands.

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