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Explaining and Comparing the Two Proposed Plastic Bag Bylaws in Oak Bluffs

Oak Bluffs Annual Town Meeting
April 11, 2017
7:00 PM
Performing Arts Center

At the 2017 annual Town Meeting, Oak Bluffs voters will have to weigh the merits of two starkly different plastic bag bylaws, each listed as separate warrant articles.

Last year's bylaw, created and sponsored by VCS and then adopted by the other five Island towns, has now been submitted in Oak Bluffs via citizens’ petition. It will appear on the warrant as Article 44.
(View the text here; however, we intend to introduce an amendment at Town Meeting that would allow stores to apply for up to three one-year waivers due to hardship.) In addition, a new bylaw, created by a group of businesses who want to continue using plastic bags, will appear on the warrant as Article 45.

Needless to say, two articles addressing the same issue leads to some confusion, both in terms of the substance of the issue – which bylaw is actually better for Oak Bluffs? – and procedurally, as the two bylaws are contradictory enough that they cannot both be implemented if passed. There are many technical differences, but in short, where the original bylaw effectively and fairly addresses the many problems caused by plastic bag pollution, the article from the business owners proposes a complicated but structurally weak bylaw that would result in: 1) many types of bags in use made of many different compounds, requiring multiple costly and confusing collection/disposal programs, 2) a minimal reduction in the total number of plastic bags used, and 3) the potential for businesses to avoid the bylaw altogether, indefinitely.

For more details on the differences between Articles 44 and 45, please see the flyer to be distributed at Town Meeting.