BOSTON (WBZ-AM/AP) -- The Boston City Council has approved a plan to ban single-use plastic shopping bags throughout the city.
The council voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of the proposal by Councilor Matt O'Malley and sponsored by Councilor Michelle Wu.
It still requires approval from Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh.
The proposal would ban flimsy plastic bags, but allow businesses to charge 5 cents for more durable ones, as well as paper bags with handles.
Typical paper bags without handles would be free and businesses would keep all fee proceeds.
The activists who fought for two years to get the ban passed in cities and towns across the state told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Kendall Buhl that the decision marks an important moment in the war on plastic bags.
"Once Boston passes its laws as it has today, then the state will surely follow with a state-wide bag ban," said Brad Verter, Executive Director of the Mass Green Network. "That's the goal, and we're utterly thrilled."
Activists say the cost of the bags is far outweighed by the cost of letting tons of petroleum-based trash add up every year.
O'Malley said he thinks opposition was overcome by realizing the reality of the cost situation.
"Stores right now factor in the cost of the bags into the bottom line of their prices," he said. "There are 20 tons of plastic bag that's thrown in with our single-stream recycling in Boston every month. That's 20 tons per month, and we've got countless city employees who are spending time removing, cleaning up this litter from our parks, from our playgrounds, from our storm drains--so we're already paying for it."
Though it was his proposal, O'Malley called the members of local Girl Scout Troop 68277 the "driving force" behind the ban--they've been gathering signatures for the ban for the last year.
They got involved after learning about the damage that plastic bags cause to marine life.
One of the members of the troop, Eleanor Pelletier of Dorchester, said getting rid of the bags wasn't as easy as she thought.
"I kind of just thought that we would just tell the mayor and stuff, and it would be done," she said. "I didn't realize that people wouldn't agree. I thought it should be obvious."
Her troop also helped sew reusable bags to hand out to Boston residents.
O'Malley said that the proposal, which will go into affect in one year, has the added benefit of helping make Boston a more beautiful place.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Kendall Buhl reports