A proposal to ban plastic grocery bags and charge a 10-cent-fee on large paper bags used to carry products out of stores was presented at a workshop July 24 by the Camden Conservation Commission.

Commission members hope these measures will encourage shoppers to turn to reusable shopping bags and cut down on single-use bags. The plastic bag ban does not apply to dry cleaner bags and small plastic bags used inside stores to bag products, such as vegetables. The paper bag fee would not apply to small paper bags used inside stores.

The group presented research it has done on the consequences of banning versus fees for single-use bags. Earlier this year, the group's proposal to charge fees for both plastic and paper bags was discussed at two select board meetings. Owners of retail stores expressed concern about charging customers fees for the small bags they use to package products such as made-to-order sandwiches and candy. Select board members asked for changes to make the proposal easier to understand and carry out. Board member Alison McKellar urged the commission to consider all of the consequences stemming from single use bag fees and bans.

Stephanie Smith, commission co-chair, explained July 24 that the new proposal is based on feedback from select board members, Camden retail store owners and members of the public. She said the majority of local retailers are in favor of doing something, while some have expressed concerns about fees.

Commission chairman Roger Rittmaster presented information on the environmental benefits of banning bags and bag fees. Rittmaster said the research shows that a ban on plastic and a fee on paper single use carry out bags is the most effective combination to encourage reusable bags, reduce pollution of the oceans and carbon emissions.

Plastic bags have now been banned by nine towns in Maine, including Rockland, Belfast, and Brunswick, according to the research presented. Bath and Freeport combine the use of a plastic bag ban with a fee on paper bags.

Cheryl Beveridge, who owns the Beveridge Farm Stand on Route 52, asked how the plastic bag ban would affect her business. She explained that all of the bags used at the farm stand are donated by people who drop them off. The consensus of commission members present was that bags that were being reused would not be subject to a ban. Customers could bring their own plastic bags to a store. The likelihood that a plastic bag ban would eventually dry up the supply of the type of bags dropped off at the farm stand was recognized.

Select board members Marc Ratner, Alison McKellar, Jenna Lookner and Bob Falciani attended the workshop. All of the members praised the conservation commission for its work and research presentation.

Ratner called for keeping the proposal as simple as possible. He agreed that the research shows that banning plastic bags has the best environmental impact. Lookner and McKellar both signaled that they could work with the proposal on banning single-use plastic bags, when it is brought to the select board for discussion.