The Cambridge City Council voted last night for several resolutions related to energy usage and the environment.
Resolution number three orders the City Manager to “be … requested to devise and implement a system for annually reporting the energy use of each municipal building, including schools and buildings leased by the city, and to communicate this information to the public by making it available on the city website and through other means such as displays in building lobbies and city publications.”
Resolution number nine orders “That the City Manager … is requested to designate a committee to include the City’s Assistant City Manager for Fiscal Affairs, to analyze various scenarios for installation of renewable energy facilities for city buildings.”
Resolution number 10 orders the City Manager to look into instituting a ban on plastic bags similar to other cities across the country and elsewhere in the world.
In 2007, the resolution asserts, San Francisco became the first major city in the U.S. to ban single-use plastic bags in chain grocery stores and pharmacies. Dozens of other cities have followed suit and rising concern about the paltry recyclability of plastic bags has emphasized the benefit of such bans and the idea of reusable totes. It is estimated that close to 100 million fewer plastic bags were handed out over the last year in San Francisco.
In his testimony to the City Council, Phil Sego, the Plastic Bags Campaign Coordinator for the Massachusetts Chapter of the Sierra Club, explained that “single use plastic bags are contributing to serious issues facing Cambridge, the State, the United States, and the World: energy, public health, global warming, and species conservation. Tackling these issues will require the culmination of many small actions bring about large change. Banning plastic bags is an important and easily implemented step towards meaningful change.”
In an email correspondence this afternoon with this Examiner Sego explained that now that the resolution has passed through the City Council a few things could happen.
First, he said, that the City Manager could put this on a back burner. But, he said “I have faith that Councillor Decker will be quite persistent in getting some action.” Councillor Marjorie Decker introduced the plastic bag ban and the resolution requesting that Cambridge go “coal-free”.
Other routes could include a voluntary approach, where retail stores adopt a policy of their own, or, Sego explains, the City Manager could adopt something with some “teeth.”
As a response to public pressure against plastic bags, on March 12, 2009, the Mass Food Association entered a voluntary agreement with the Mass Department of Environmental Protection that major supermarkets would decrease plastic bag use by 33% by the year 2013. A 33% reduction, if it actually took place, would place us at the absolute worst performers of all places that have enacted ANY regulation concerning plastic bags –even below the country of Botswana and Burma. The Sierra Club, Sego asserted last night, has received countless reports of absolutely no change in behavior at any supermarket; no evidence nor independent body has verified that there has been any change in bag use.
But what about those who argue that they use plastic bags for trash purposes? Sego argues that the solution to that is bioplastics. And, Sego goes on to say, bioplastics are being produced in Cambridge by a company called Metabolix. Metabolix has a line of bioplastic created by a material called Mirel, which is biodegradable. Admittedly, this form of bag will not break down in a conventional landfill, but can be reused and then composted.
Another resolution (resolution 11) passed through the City Council last night put the council on record requesting that Cambridge go “coal-free” in an effort to combat the negative effects such energy has on health, economics and social justice. It was also ordered through the resolution that the City Manager report back to the City Council on how to make this happen.