You may not have noticed amid all the hubbub around national issues and politics, but some other pretty important votes took place in Maine on, or near, this past Election Day.
Multiple towns took important steps to help create more sustainable communities through the elimination or reduction of plastic pollution. And that is good news!
In early November, Bath’s City Council unanimously supported two ordinances to curb the use of single-use, disposable plastics. The measures will prohibit merchants from distributing single-use plastic bags and single-use polystyrene (plastic foam) food containers at the point of sale. Bath joins a growing number of Maine communities that recognize the enormous costs associated with the single-use-and-toss culture that’s grown up around these products. Bath’s ordinance, which will take effect on Earth Day, 2018, includes a novel approach for paper bags, which carry their own heavy costs for the environment and retailers. Bath, in a first in the state move, will place five-cent per paper bag fee, and this amount will increase by five cents each year for two additional years, capping at fifteen cents.
Meanwhile, 40 miles south, Cape Elizabeth adopted its own set of ordinances. The City Council there approved an ordinance placing a $.05 fee on all single-use disposable bags and a ban on polystyrene food containers. This approach is used by many other Maine communities; now nearly two dozen have adopted either bag or foam ordinances. This modest fee has proven to be an effective incentive to discourage single-use bags in communities throughout Maine and around the world.
And, headed north, Camden just passed an important ordinance that will help reduce micro-plastics entering our marine and fresh water environments. More than 80 percent of Camden voters adopted an ordinance to prohibit the use of un-encapsulated foam in new docks, and phase out the material on existing docks. Within the next five years, the town will require all docks in Camden to have their foam encapsulated, which will prevent the material from breaking apart due to UV rays, abrasion, or animal curiosity.
These are incredibly important achievements, and the residents in each town should be proud of the work they have done, and are doing, to help create healthier, more sustainable communities in Maine. Fifteen percent of Maine’s population currently resides in towns with ordinances dealing with single-use bags. Twelve percent of the population has now adopted foam container ordinances. And the percentages for both are growing all the time! Each community helps inspire others, which helps us all in the long-run!