By John Swinconeck
Times Record news story
FREEPORT, Maine — Freeport could be the next town in Maine to impose a ban or fee on the use of single-use plastic or paper bags.
The town council will take up the issue tonight.
Freeport is dependent on retailers, from the downtown outlet stores to Shaw’s supermarket.
In September 2014, the Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce surveyed 105 of its members, about half of whom said they opposed the ban, although 80 percent of chamber members said they did not use plastic bags in their businesses.
Respondents of a Freeport USA survey, totaling 26 out of 155 members, appeared to lean toward a ban, with 46 percent in support, 27 percent opposed and 27 percent unsure.
Many residents appear to favor the ban.
A November 2014 survey of nearly 800 residents found that almost 70 percent favored banning disposable shopping bags in town, with about 25 percent opposed and 5 percent having no opinion.
Most respondents favored banning plastic bags over paper bags.
About 55 percent said they would support a per-bag fee if no ban was adopted.
At least one town councilor has already signaled his support on some kind of limitation.
“Plastic bags have a lot of ramifications, particularly in the marine environment,” said Councilor Bill Rixon in a March 16 interview with The Times Record.
Rixon said he would favor a 5-cent fee on both paper and plastic bags for one year, and then instituting a ban the following year.
The town’s recycling committee threw its support behind the measure as far back as September 2014. In a December memo, the committee noted that bags do not biodegrade but become broken down into micro-plastics that are consumed by marine organisms, contaminating the food chain.
The committee noted that bags clog storm drains and cause problems for wastewater treatment plants.
They also kill or injure marine animals after entanglement or ingestion and litter the clam flats.
The committee noted the town in 1989 banned the use of Styrofoam.
There may be certain exemptions, including pet waste bags that are provided at local parks and produce bags used by Shaw’s and Bow Street Market. Other exemptions may be made on a case-by-case basis.
Freeport wouldn’t be alone in enacting limitations on single-use bags. Portland recently enacted a 5-cent fee for disposable bags issued by certain retailers.
Falmouth is also considering limitations, and in 2012, Windham passed a resolution seeking voluntary reduction in the use of plastic bags.
The Freeport Town Council meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall.