Tonight, the Portland City Council voted 6-3 to ban foam packaging in city stores and restaurants, and voted 6-3 to enact a 5-cent fee on disposable shopping bags.
“We congratulate Portland for approving these ordinances, which will clean up Portland’s neighborhoods, streets, and Casco Bay by encouraging the use of reusable bags and eco-friendly packaging,” said Sarah Lakeman, Sustainability Director with the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Portland can be proud that they have taken two important strides toward making our city a more sustainable one.”
“These practical and common-sense actions will help to reduce the most common and costly litter in the city,” said Glen Brand, Director of Sierra Club Maine. “Styrofoam and plastic bags are more than unsightly eyesores; their production wastes energy and causes pollution, and plastic bags break down into toxic particles that pose a serious health threat to ocean wildlife.”
Polystyrene foam containers are among the most prevalent source of litter on Portland’s roadsides and coastal waters, there is no place to recycle these plastics locally, and there are many affordable, easily recyclable, less harmful alternatives to these containers. Unlike their substitutes, foam containers are far more harmful when they are released into the environment because they never fully breakdown and biodegrade, and can be lethal when ingested by fish and wildlife.
“Portland’s single-use bag fee program is modeled on similar programs nationwide that have proven to drastically reduce plastic bag litter clogging storm drains, jamming recycling equipment, and eventually floating out to sea,” added Brand. “A fee program encourages people to bring their own reusable bags to stores, and reminds and educates consumers that so-called “free” plastic bags have real environmental and economic costs.”
“Any shopper who brings his or her own bag to the store or does not need a bag will not pay any fee. Those who want disposable bags will buy them for 5 cents apiece,” said Lakeman. “This incentive will reduce litter and waste by encouraging people to avoid the purchase of single-use disposable bags and encourage shoppers to bring their own bag or skip the bag all together.”
Portland’s 5-cent fee on disposable bags and ban on foam containers will take effect April 15, 2015.