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Lynn looking to ban plastic bags in retail stores

LYNN — The city may ban the use of plastic bags, following the policies of a number of surrounding communities.

Public Health Director Michele Desmarais said the topic is at the top of the Board of Health’s February agenda. The ban is inspired by ones implemented in Swampscott, Salem, Marblehead and Boston, she said.

“Those communities already have a plastic bag ban and I think Lynn needs to follow in line,” said Desmarais. “Plastic bags have a significant impact on the environment, especially with Lynn being an oceanfront community. The bags go into the water and the ocean wildlife could die from that if they try to eat or ingest it.”

Boston’s ban went into effect in December and only applies to checkout bags, according to the city website. Retailers can sell recyclable paper bags, compostable bags, or reusable bags for at least five cents apiece.

Swampscott’s ban went into effect last September, Salem’s ban of single-use plastic checkout bags went into effect last January, and Marblehead’s went into effect May 2015.

“I’m supportive of the policy,” said state Sen. Brendan Crighton. “I think it’s a great thing for local officials to take a look into. I’ve been educated on it and made aware of it through local efforts, including a presentation by Lynn’s Girls Inc. members. They did a great job highlighting how the bags impact the marine ecosystem and environment.”

Last April, Girls Inc. members lobbied city councilors with a PowerPoint slideshow depicting the harms plastic brings to the environment. In addition, the teens gathered more than 500 signatures for a petition to support the ban.

Desmarais said the girls were very persuasive with their presentation and discussed a number of important facts on the dangers plastic brings to the environment, especially to an oceanfront community such as Lynn.

Another reason to rid the use of plastic bags, according to Desmarais, is they are a burden to recycling in the city.

“I think we just all need to change our way of thinking,” she said. “I also think it’s important we start out slow because there are a multitude of things we could incorporate into the plastic ban, like do we include straws and those plastic newspaper bags?”

If approved by the city, the ban could go into effect as early as August, said Desmarais.

“Single use plastic bags have an immense impact on our environment,” said Mayor Thomas M. McGee. “As many of our peer municipalities have done already, it is important that Lynn take steps to address this issue. We will work with the Board of Health, residents, and the business community to determine the best way to move forward.”

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