Plastic bag ban for Amherst stores set to begin in 2017

By Melisa Joseph

(Daily Collegian Archives)
(Daily Collegian Archives)

Starting on Jan. 1, single-use plastic bags will be prohibited from all retail facilities in the town of Amherst in accordance with a bylaw passed May 26th in the Amherst Town Meeting.  The bylaw, supported by a vote of 110 to 30 in the Town Meeting, is known as Article 36: Single Use Plastic Bag Ban Prohibition. The bylaw was written by University of Massachusetts sustainability science graduate student, Keven Hollerbach.

What started out just as a graduate internship idea turned out to impact more people than Hollerbach first expected.

“[Plastic bags are] just straight up unnecessary,” Hollerbach said. “Plastic bags? We can get rid of those now.”

Hollerbach added that one bag has an average lifespan of 12 minutes, but a lifetime impact on marine life, pollution and humans.

“Incinerating plastic produces carcinogenic compounds that can cause significant adverse health effects for people living near these incineration plants,” Hollerbach said.

Businesses will be putting up signs to inform consumers of the coming change in policy. In addition, if a buisness is suffering due to the plastic bag ban, they will be able to request a one-year deferment from the Board of Health to meet their needs.

If a buisness does not comply, they will be issued a warning first, and then a $50 fine for the first day, which will add up for each day of the offense.

This bylaw is designed to encourage consumers to bring their own reusable bags in order to decrease the harm to the environment caused by plastic bags. According to a flyer in support for the bylaw, it is expensive to recycle and receive plastic bags from landfills.

Plastic, which takes 1,000 years to biodegrade, may also cause adverse health impacts to humans. According to findings in Scientific Ameican, various chemicals are added to plastic bags to make them more durable, but can have toxic impacts on human and animal reproduction cycles.

“Our generation is inheriting this planet,” Hollerbach said. “Therefore, we must do our part to preserve as much of it as we can.”

Melisa Joseph can be reached at [email protected]