Rinaldo Del Gallo III: Time for Pittsfield to join plastic bag ban movement

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PITTSFIELD — The great thing about movements is that they inspire each other. A little over six years ago, having read about a ban of styrofoam in Brookline, which in turn was inspired by a ban in Great Barrington in 1990, I filed a petition to ban Styrofoam in Pittsfield, which was approved two years later. At the time, I had little idea of the vast amounts of time and countless hearings I would be investing in the local environmental movement. I am still fighting that fight.

Several months after I filed the Styrofoam ban petition, I read about Great Barrington banning single-use plastic bags. I was again inspired to file a petition for a similar measure in Pittsfield. Sensing a struggle and an initial reluctance in Pittsfield, I started "Berkshire Green," a small, unincorporated, ad hoc association. We put citizen's petition for warrant articles to ban styrofoam and single-use plastic bags on town warrants of the annual town meetings of Adams, Dalton, Lenox and Lee.

After reading one of my columns about banning Styrofoam, Brad Verter started "Mass Green" which can be found at MassGreen.org. Through Verter's leadership, today, 91 municipalities in Massachusetts ban single-use plastic bags. This includes the cities of Cambridge and Boston, which also charge for paper alternatives to encourage the use of durable plastic bags.

We helped Verter with his efforts in Williamstown, where he saw success right away, and with the help of Peter Hofman in Lee, Eric Federer in Lenox, Ed Driscoll in Adams, and Cheryl Rose in Dalton, much was done. Today, there are single-use plastic bag bans not only in the tri-towns of Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge, but also in Adams, Dalton and Williamstown.

To read about the entire history, go to BerkshireGreen.wordpress.com.

After years of effort, we know with great certainty that the support among the population is widespread. Sure, there may be occasional vocal opponents, but when these bans are put to votes in town meetings they pass with landslides. In Adams, dozens upon dozens of town meeting members voted unanimously to ban single-use plastic bags. The votes in Dalton and Lee, while not unanimous, were very lopsided.

Moreover, there is little opposition in the industry. When my petition was before the Green Commission, letters were sent out to every potential user of single-use plastic bags about a pending hearing on a ban. Yet only one business showed up and it did not raise a vigorous opposition. Already, BJ's, Price-Rite, and Aldi's don't give out single-use plastic bags.

In October of 2018, the Brattleboro, Vermont Price Chopper and Market 32 took a stand to reduce the number of disposable single-use plastic bags. Mona Golub, Price Chopper's vice president of public relations and consumer services, in a press release, said, "Both plastic and paper bags are disposable and detrimental to the environment."

In January of this year, Big Y issued a press release which stated "Customers in those communities [that have bans] are delighted with the ban, are supportive of environmentally responsible business practices and have been strong proponents of using reusable bags as an alternative to plastic and paper." Noting widespread community support for the ban, Big Y states, "Single-use plastic bags can no longer be viewed as a long-term solution for our stores."

This Tuesday evening, the Pittsfield City Council will vote on whether to eliminate single-use plastic bags, and they should vote yes.

Rinaldo Del Gallo is a local attorney and environmentalist who was awarded a "Hero of the Ocean" Award.


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