By Halimah Kargbo

Features Editor

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Chances are, if you have shopped in Howard County at any point in the last two months, you know about the new disposable bag fee. But for those of you who don’t know, starting on October 1st, all retail stores began charging 5 cents for any disposable bag sold at the point of checkout.

The county is trying to make efforts to become more environmentally-conscious, especially when it comes to plastic bags. For every 5 cents collected, 4 cents goes into something called “The Disposable Plastics Reduction Fund”, which then goes towards providing reusable bags to people in Howard County and creating different environmental efforts/programs.

Even if you don’t do your shopping in this county, this fee has the potential to affect everyone who lives here in such a positive way. In the eyes of many, the benefits definitely outweigh the costs. 

Ms. Niland, the Green Team sponsor at Hammond, expressed her thoughts on this new change, saying “I think it is a good idea to help encourage people to use the reusable bags so that we can cut down on the disposable bags in the environment. I make a point of recycling them at my grocery store, but not everyone does. They are so deadly to marine animals when they make it to the ocean that it would be very beneficial to have less of them in use.” 

The fee seems to be an incentive to invest in reusable bags, rather than going home with a countless number of plastic bags after each shopping trip. But, even if a shopper would rather pay the 5 cents, a portion is going towards the effort. Either way, advancements are being made towards a greener Howard County. 

When it comes to reusable bags, senior Kaiya Bumbray says “[I am] more likely [to purchase and use them] because I can save money while helping the environment.” At the end of the day, going ahead and buying a reusable bag does seem to cut costs and promote the environment we live in. There are slight doubts about this new fee though.

“In my opinion, the disposable bag fee is inconvenient,” senior Jac’ey Wynn Ogunbode believes, “but also a productive step towards reducing waste and the mass production of unnecessary plastic”. It would definitely be more of a trouble if a shopper didn’t have a reusable bag available, but luckily more and more retail stores have them for sale.

On the matter of making the switch from disposable bags, I personally think it’s all too easy. Now that all stores are charging a fee, there’s no way to avoid the cost of a bag for your items. It is worth it to pay a little extra for a bag you can use countless times rather than to pay 5 cents each time for a disposable one. If plastic bags are kept out of our hands, they have less of a chance of ending up where they shouldn’t be. 

“They are detrimental to other wildlife as well, such as birds,” Ms. Niland adds. “And as with many plastics, it takes too long for them to break down in the environment.”

In the US, three states which are: California, Hawaii, and New York, are ahead of the curve and have already banned the use of plastic bags in stores. Others have signed major legislation on the matter, but have not yet banned them on a state-level. Perhaps this step in Howard County is only the beginning for new changes all over Maryland.

More information can be found on the Live Green Howard website.