The Rockland City Council gave unanimous preliminary approval Monday night, Feb. 12, to imposing a ban on the distribution of single-use plastic bags by stores beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

The ordinance, which faces a formal public hearing and possible final vote on March 12, would also ban Styrofoam containers and impose a fee on paper bags.

Most of the speakers from the public backed the ban.

Chelsea Avirett said the ordinance would support a culture of sustainability in the community.

Alexander Shaw said the goal is to reduce waste.

Greg Smith said the science was clear on the harm that plastic does to the environment.

One speaker said the ban harms people who cannot afford to buy reusable bags.

Councilor Adam Ackor said he shared the concerns about plastic in the environment, but that he also had concerns about the proposed ordinance. He pointed out that the ban would not affect stores nearby, such as Lowe's and Wal-Mart.

Ackor said he reuses 100 percent of his plastic bags — to line his trash cans or to pick up dog waste.

The council is scheduled to hold a workshop on the proposed ordinance Feb. 26.

Councilor Ed Glaser is sponsoring the ordinance.

"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. The 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 a $250 fine 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.

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. Camden is also considering such a ban.