by Brian P. D. Hannon
Free Press news story
In Bea Dodge’s 28 years working at Wasses, only two customers asked her not to serve their hot dogs and fries under the folding white lid of a Styrofoam container. When the Rockland takeout spot begins a new year of business on January 2, the choice will no longer exist.
Rockland is one of a trio of midcoast towns, including Camden and Damariscotta, that are set to join an ever-growing movement of communities adopting bans on containers believed to harm the environment.
The Rockland City Council passed an ordinance in March to prohibit single-use plastic bags, the kind found most often at supermarkets and other food stores; the ordinance, which takes effect January 1, does not prohibit other types of plastic bags such as those used for garbage or lawn clippings.
Damariscotta’s single-use plastic bag ban is scheduled to take effect March 1, while Camden’s ordinance blocking use of the single-use bags by food retailers is slated to begin on April 30.
Rockland also voted to ban single-use containers made of polystyrene foam, which has different variants, although Styrofoam is the one that for decades has been the receptacle of choice for takeout coffee and ready-to-eat meals such as the Wasses hot dogs and sides served by Dodge and co-worker Sherrie Losier.
Dodge said Wasses will undoubtedly have to pay more when it replaces polystyrene containers with paper boxes and trades plastic drink straws for paper versions. But, Dodge said, the company has not changed its menu prices for years and will try to avoid doing so as a result of the new ordinance. “We’ll have to try around to get the best price we can get [for new containers] so it doesn’t trickle down to the customer.”
Since 2015, 19 municipalities in the state have voted for some form of bag ban, including Bath, Blue Hill, Brunswick, Falmouth, Freeport, Kennebunk, Newcastle, Portland, South Portland, Saco, Southwest Harbor and York.
Belfast enacted a plastic bag ban on New Year’s Day 2018. As a result, the Hannaford store there adopted a five-cent charge for each single-use paper bag.
Rockland Town Manager Tom Luttrell said outreach preparation efforts for the forthcoming ban have been relatively light, but include explaining the ordinance at a meeting of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce and issuing a letter to all Rockland businesses outlining the measure.
“We have proactively been reaching out to prepare businesses and remind them of the ban going into effect January 1,” Luttrell said.
Damariscotta Town Manager Matt Lutkus said a letter will go out to the business community there. He said Code Enforcement Officer Stan Waltz also plans to visit each merchant in town to remind them of the March 1 start date.
“We want to give the businesses plenty of lead time so that they can use up their supply of plastic bags and avoid restocking with plastics,” Lutkus said.