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Plastic Bag Ban Sparks Debate with Voters

May 16, 2019 GMT

BILLERICA — A plastic bag ban is coming to town.

On Tuesday night, Town Meeting members gathered in the auditorium for the third and final night of Town Meeting. The three articles left on the warrant covered a plastic bag ban, a paraprofessional union contract and a recommendation on overdose reporting. All three passed.

According to Town Manager John Curran, the article on the paraprofessional contract passed overwhelmingly.

The article to impose a plastic bag ban, however, sparked some debate.

“It was a little animated,” Curran said.

The ban prevents retail shops like grocery stores from using single use plastic bags and instead offer paper bags or reusable bags. Plastic bags used to hold produce and dry-cleaning will still be permitted in town.


Those in support of the ban have pointed to the negative environmental impacts that plastic bags have such as polluting waterways, as they do no easily biodegrade.

According to Curran, those who spoke against the article questioned whether plastic bags were really a problem in town and suggested that other types of plastics might be more of a problem.

An amendment to allow people to use plastic bags if they pay for them, failed. The original article then passed with 135 votes in favor and 47 votes against, according to results shared by the town.

The article did not specify when the ban would take effect but Curran estimated it could begin in a few months. When the ban takes effect, Billerica will join numerous communities in the state that have banned plastic bags including Tewksbury and Wilmington.

The final article of the night covered how the town and police report local opioid-related substance abuse overdose statistics. While Town Meeting can’t create policies, it can recommend that the town adopt one, which was the purpose of the article.

The article specified that the town alert the community when there is a spike in overdose activity or a “significant increase in danger to public health and safety due to recent drug activity,” according to the article explanation.

The town already does what the article outlines, but it does not have a set policy in place. In light of the article’s passage, the town will begin reporting the statistics on a monthly basis which was also specified in the article, Curran said.

District Attorney Marian Ryan, Police Chief Daniel Rosa and members of the Substance Abuse Prevention Committee spoke in favor of the article, according to Curran.

Follow Emma R. Murphy on Twitter @MurphReports