By Stephen Betts
Village Soup news story
ROCKLAND — The Rockland City Council will consider this month an ordinance to ban the use of single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam containers.
In addition, the proposed law would impose an increasing fee on paper bags in an effort to encourage shoppers to use reusable shopping bags.
Councilor Ed Glaser is sponsoring the proposed ordinance that will be discussed at the Monday night, Feb. 5 agenda-setting meeting. A preliminary vote would be held Feb. 12.
If approved then, a formal public hearing and final vote would be held March 12 and the law would go into effect April 12.
“It is in the best interests of the City of Rockland to protect the environment and our natural resources by prohibiting the distribution and use of disposable, single-use, carryout plastic bags, by discouraging the distribution and use of disposable, single-use, carryout paper bags, and by encouraging the use of reusable shopping bags,” the preamble to the proposed ordinance states.
The law would require stores to charge 5 cents on every carryout paper bag used by customers. That fee would increase to 10 cents a year later, and then 15 cents in two years. The stores will keep the money from the sale of paper bags.
Customers would not be prohibited from bringing any type of bag they want into the store to carry home their groceries or merchandise.
Stores that violate the ordinance would be fined $100 for the first violation. A second or subsequent violations within a year would result in $250 fines to the store.
Last April, the city council heard a presentation on a possible ban from Rob Pfeiffer of Lincolnville. Pfeiffer made similar presentations to Camden and Thomaston. He urged communities to take a regional approach.
Pfeiffer had said that he took an intensive course over the winter that is based on the Pachamama Alliance which he said uses the wisdom of the indigenous people in the Amazon basin to create a sustainable world.
“We need to learn to live in harmony with the planet,” Pfeiffer said.
He said the impact of pollution from plastic is clear, adding that a study done by the Marine and Environmental Research Institute in Blue Hill found an average of 17 micro fragments of plastic in every liter of seawater in Penobscot Bay.
Pfeiffer, an avid bicyclist and kayaker, said he sees plastic bags along the roads and bodies of water as well as in trees. He said he has helped sea turtles who are caught in plastic and seen seagulls who have plastic bags wrapped around them.
Brunswick, Topsham, Kennebunk, Freeport, Falmouth, York, Portland and South Portland have enacted bans or fees on plastic bags. And Belfast became the most recent with its ban on plastic bags and Styrofoam which took effect Jan. 1.