The Ashland City Council on Tuesday approved a ban on the distribution of plastic bags as well as a 10-cent fee on each paper bag requested by customers who forget to bring reusable shopping bags.
Councilors backed away from an earlier proposal to impose a fee of 25 cents per paper bag.
Councilor Pam Marsh said 25 cents would have been costly, especially for low-income residents, but Ashland should have a 10-cent fee to motivate people to bring their own reusable shopping bags.
Councilors Marsh, Rich Rosenthal, Dennis Slattery, Mike Morris and Carol Voisin voted for the plastic bag ban and 10-cent paper bag fee, while Councilor Greg Lemhouse voted against it.
Lemhouse said he was concerned about the fee's impact on low-income residents as well as busy families who may not remember to bring reusable bags.
The new law will not be enforced for six months to give businesses time to use up their supplies of plastic bags, to develop new systems to supply paper bags and encourage the use of reusable bags.
Paper bags must have at least 40 percent recycled content.
Businesses will have to provide free reusable or paper bags at the request of customers enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children supplemental nutrition program.
Many grocery stores in Ashland have already stopped offering plastic bags and encourage customers to bring their own reusable shopping bags.
Some plastic bags would still be allowed under the ordinance, including those used to package bulk items, produce, meat, frozen foods, potted plants and other damp items, hot prepared food and liquids, unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods, prescriptions and dry cleaned clothing.
— Vickie Aldous