Haverhill City Council to Debate Plastic Bag Ban at Tuesday’s Meeting

File photograph. (Image licensed by Ingram Image.)

Haverhill’s City Council will discuss the benefits and challenges of a plastic bag ban at Tuesday’s meeting. (File photograph)

Click image for Haverhill City Council agenda.

The Haverhill City Council’s Citizens Outreach Committee will recommend that the full council approve a ban on single-use shopping bags in the city.

The subcommittee met on Jan. 29 to discuss the benefits and challenges of such a ban, and voted its unanimous support.

The full City Council meets Tuesday, beginning at 7 p.m., in the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. Council Chambers on the second floor of Haverhill City Hall. The meeting is open to the public.

Outreach Committee members noted the bags are not recyclable in the city’s curbside pickup program, get caught up in trees and wind up in the river, contributing to the pollution in the city.

Mayoral aide Allison Heartquist sat on the Newburyport City Council in 2014 when that city was among the first to take what was then a controversial decision to ban single-use plastic shopping bags.

If Haverhill put the ban into effect today, it would be the 62nd community in Massachusetts to do so.

Heartquist suggested the city would need to undertake a serious public education campaign and provide a grace period — she suggested six months — before the ban went into effect.

Any financial hardship for shoppers who are unable to buy reusable bags could be alleviated by donations, Heartquist said.

Heavy-duty paper bags and a thicker, multi-use plastic bag would be allowed, according to the subcommittee discussions.
The bags are used by grocery, department, hardware, and specialty stores, as well as some fast-food outlets.

The subcommittee also discussed a ban on polystyrene, known under the brand name of Styrofoam. Few communities have banned this substance, which is used to package meats and vegetables in grocery stores, is shaped into disposable tableware such as cups, bowls and plates, and is best known as a carrier for take-out foods because of its ability to keep the food warm.

Committee members stopped short of making any sort of recommendation for Haverhill, but chose instead to send a letter to Haverhill’s Statehouse delegation supporting legislation banning the product statewide.

Also on the council’s agenda Tuesday night:

A request to extend the lease of the Cogswell School to the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce Community Arts and Education Foundation to continue using the building as an arts center. The extension and declaration of the building as surplus would give the organization until March 31, 2019, to buy the building for $175,000. The request will be filed for two weeks before being acted upon.
A request to approve loans of $1.49 million to stabilize a stretch of bank along the Merrimack River and to complete the Marsh Avenue/Main Street sewer extension. The request will be filed for two weeks. According to documents filed with City Council, the loans would be repaid through residents’ wastewater bills.