Brunswick Town Council conducts vote on Monday
by Juliette Laaka, Times Record Staff
Times Record news story
The Brunswick Town Council voted Monday to ban single-use plastic bags, with the measure set to be enacted Sept. 1.
All councilors barring John Perreault were in favor of the ordinance, proposed by Councilors Steve Walker and Kathy Wilson. Perreault explained he would be supportive of a 5-cent fee policy for plastic bags, but not an outright ban.
Walker said although the council has discussed many options to reduce plastic bag use, including a fee system, he said the ban makes the most sense environmentally and in terms of enforcement.
Walker received a stack of letters written by a fourth grade class at Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School that expressed support for the ban.
“That’s what I’m here for, to look out for the next generation,” he said.
Councilor Suzan Wilson said her vote in favor of the ban was due to her personal understanding and direct observation of the detrimental impact of plastic bags on the environment, referring to living in Hawaii and witnessing a sea turtle die after ingesting a plastic bag.
The vote follows lengthy public discussion, with critics of the proposal wanting to make clear that they did not oppose environmentally conscious efforts, but felt as though their choice was being taken away with a ban. At a March 6 council meeting, several residents voiced support for a 5-cent fee on both paper and plastic bags, which they felt was a less restrictive option.
The ordinance bans single-use plastic bags in hopes people will opt for reusable bags, mitigating environmental impact. The proposed ban does not include produce or product bags, newspaper bags, or bags provided by pharmacies that contain prescription medication. The ban would also not extend to a re-used bag or a once-used bag that might be used at places like thrift or antique stores.
In simple terms, the ban would not allow a business to provide a plastic bag to a customer at the point of sale. Penalties range from a warning for the first violation to fines up to $500.
Proponents of the ordinance said in the two years they have worked on the issue, they sent direct mailings to 75 businesses in town, collected 1,400 signatures in support of the ban, and set up shop at community events and common areas to talk about the proposal, naming off outreach locations at the polls, the post office and the farmers market. Marcia Harrington, of Bring Your Own Bag, said in addition to face time with residents about the proposal, two public service announcements were created, and 60 appearances were featured in the local press concerning the ban.
Council Chairwoman Alison Harris said although the 5-cent fee option may have been a missed educational opportunity, and that she hopes the banning of plastic bags does not create an uptick in paper bag use, she was supportive of the ban.
“I will miss the bags, I use them for other purposes … but so be it,” Harris said.
The council will meet again on Monday, April 3.
- THE BAN in Brunswick will not allow a business to provide a plastic bag to a customer at the point of purchase. Penalties range from a warning for the first violation to fines up to $500.
- THE BAN does not include produce or product bags, newspaper bags, or bags provided by pharmacies that contain prescription medication. The ban will also not extend to a re-used bag or a once-used bag that might be used at places like thrift or antique stores.