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Boston City Council Debates Shopping Bags Fee

Boston city councilors will weigh a proposal to charge shoppers 5 cents for every carryout bag they grab from the store in an effort to encourage consumers to bring reusable bags. (Eric__I_E/Flickr)
Boston city councilors will weigh a proposal to charge shoppers 5 cents for every carryout bag they grab from the store in an effort to encourage consumers to bring reusable bags. (Eric__I_E/Flickr)
This article is more than 2 years old.

On Wednesday, Boston City Council members are expected to debate a proposed ordinance to charge consumers a 5 cent fee per shopping bag — whether the bag is paper or plastic — across city supermarkets and stores.

Councilor Matt O'Malley, one of the plan's authors, said the fee would encourage people to choose reusable bags. He believes the fee would not hurt shoppers.

"We're talking about a nickel per bag," he told our Newscast Unit on Tuesday afternoon. "If an individual uses 500 bags in a given calendar year — which is the highest estimate I've seen — that would work out to $25 per year."

But, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts said the bag fee could hurt local stores by driving more people to shop online. The proposal states stores will keep the fees collected for checkout bags. Retailers who fail to comply with the ordinance would face fines.

O'Malley said he does not expect the council to vote on the proposed ordinance Wednesday.

Several municipalities in the area, including Cambridge and Brookline, have already adopted checkout bag policies in hopes of curbing waste and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

With reporting from WBUR's Jon Cain and Lisa Creamer

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