by Nathan Strout
Times Record news story
“The Solid Waste Advisory Committee has been meeting since last January or February, so for several months, examining a proposal to bring to you: a potential ban or, I should say an effort to get the public to bring their own bags to the grocery store,” said Director of Public Works Lee Leiner at last week’s city council meeting.
Brunswick and Freeport have issued bans on plastic bags, and Topsham has banned polystyrene containers and put a fee on plastic bag use.
“I’d like to say that I think we’re coming to this pretty late,” said former Councilor Ruth Lawson- Stopps, who serves on the committee. “Lots of municipalities all over have already put ordinances in. So, our proposal is to ban single-use plastic bags that are not meeting the reusable bag standard from distribution at a cash register at all businesses in Bath.”
An exception would be made for product bags, such as those used for items like produce or meat at the grocery store that are used to convey products to the register. Fairs, festivals, crafts or flea markets, and other temporary or irregular markets would be exempt as well.
The ordinance would also ban the use of polystyrene containers, with the exception of use with live or raw seafood or meat, which has similar issues to plastic bags.
“We know that they create litter in trees, wetlands, waterways. They clog storm drains. That costs us money. It requires the use of public funds to clean it up,” said Lawson-Stopps.
Beyond litter, Lawson-Stopps framed the issue as an important part of expanding the life of the Bath landfill. The city recently approved the third and final phase of the landfill, which is expected to last another 12 years. Keeping plastic bags, Styrofoam and paper bags out of the landfill could extend that life, she said.
“We’re wanting to shift away from a throw-away society to a culture of reuse,” she said. “We’d like to educate the public about the impact of plastic bags on the environment.”
Unlike actions taken in other municipalities, the Bath ordinance would also set an escalating charge on the use of paper bags, starting at 5 cents the first year, then rising to 10 cents the second year and 15 cents the third. Revenue from those fees would be kept by the businesses. Leiner noted that the committee decided this was necessary after finding paper bags were problematic as well.
“In the end, a plastic bag in some ways becomes more environmentally friendly than a paper bag,” noted Leiner.
The committee will hold two public meetings to get feedback on the ordinance: One on Sept. 13 at City Hall and a second Sept. 19 at the Patten Free Library. Both will begin at 6 p.m. The committee will then modify the proposal if necessary based on public feedback before presenting a final draft of the ordinance to the city council.
Leiner said that the committee hopes to have the ordinance implemented by Earth Day 2018, which is in April.
2 public meetings
• THE COMMITTEE will hold two public meetings to get feedback on the ordinance: One on Sept. 13 at City Hall and a second Sept. 19 at the Patten Free Library. Both will begin at 6 p.m. The committee will then modify the proposal if necessary based on public feedback before presenting a final draft of the ordinance to the city council.