Rockland bans single-use plastic bags, polystyrene foam

By Stephen Betts | Mar 12, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts Alexander Shaw was the first of more than 20 people who spoke at Monday night's Rockland City Council meeting, most who were addressing the issue of the proposed plastic bag ban.

Rockland — After two hours of public comment, the Rockland City Council voted unanimously Monday night to ban the distribution of single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam food containers starting Jan. 1.

The council, however, removed the section of the ordinance that would have imposed a 10-cent fee on paper bags in an effort to discourage their use.

Councilor Ed Glaser said, however, that he wants the city to talk with downtown merchants and consider the paper bag fee and a ban on plastic straws in a couple months.

There were more than 20 speakers at the March 12 meeting with nearly all commenting on the plastic bag ban and fees for paper bags. The plastic bag received nearly unanimous support from the public and there was considerable support for the fees on paper bags.

But some downtown merchants voiced concern about the paper bag fee.

Councilor Amelia Magjik opposed the elimination of the paper bag fee.

"You're diluting the solution," Magjik said.

Councilor Adam Ackor said he supported the elimination of the paper bag fee.

"I've had an issue with the fee from the start. This is an overreach on the part of the city council," Ackor said.

Resident Angela McIntyre read a letter in support of the ban on plastic bags, polystyrene foam, and the fee on paper bags. The letter was signed by more than 100 Rockland residents, more than 30 businesses, and 10 organizations.

"We are thrilled that this policy demonstrates the high value that Rockland places on our collective health and the health and beauty of the oceans," the letter stated.

Alexander Shaw said paper bags were not impact free.

Becca Shaw Glaser agreed, citing the amount of water and energy to produce such bags.

Tom Peaco, executive director of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that there was broad support for banning plastic bags. He said the consensus falls apart when it comes to paper bags.

He said the proposed fee system was more onerous for small businesses than for larger retailers.

Christopher Curro of Rockland, general manager of the Good Tern Food Coop, voiced support for both the plastic bag ban and the paper bag fees. Curro said the proposal was both forward thinking and forward action.

Heidi Neal, co-owner of Loyal Biscuit, criticized the paper bag fee, but said she fully supported the plastic bag ban.

Neal said the city should not be telling her what to sell and how much to charge.

Sierra Dietz of the Grasshopper Shop also said the problem with the paper bag fee was that it was telling people how to run their own businesses.

Gordon Page, executive director of Rockland Main Street, Inc. said businesses are donating money to pay for reusable bags to be given out to low-income residents. Kim Bernard, a Rockland resident, said she has applied for a grant, to provide for reusable bags for low-income residents.

Comments (12)
Posted by: Dale Hayward | Mar 15, 2018 20:50

What prevents a person from shopping, purchasing a plastic bag for 5 cents, take your groceries or items home, empty the bag, keep your receipt and return the bag next shopping trip and get your five cents back. Maybe you needed 5 0r 6 at on time and need to only take 3 or 4 back and get your money back. If they are ripped just use the State of Maine Attorney General Consumer express and implied law that governs consumer products for four years to be able to be used as designed.? This law is not the best mouse trap. No recycling ever was offered. They can be recycled.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Mar 14, 2018 04:32

We are not the first to take this step.  Falmouth has had this in place for several years.  If you go to Walmart, you had better bring your own bags or pay to use theirs.  Which, by the way, I believe is plastic.  Hmmmm, now that is different.  Don't get all frustrated and upset.  We have until January.  That should give everyone plenty of time to find cloth bags, you can make your own, or other types of bags.  My main problem for awhile will be to remember to put them in my car and then take them into the store. LOL

Posted by: Ananur Forma | Mar 13, 2018 15:25

on the west coast they are always a little ahead of us. They have been using for years now- "plastic bags," which are NOT plastic and are made from corn and other biodegradable products. When do our stores sell these/ when do we make a conscious choice not to ever buy plastic? and... while I'm at it- we ought not to drink out of plastic, as it breaks down and causes cancer. How long have those water bottles been sitting in the warehouse? drink out of glass bottles and fill them up again and again, that's what I do. Plastic is oil based petroleum product making the 1% oil people richer and richer. think about it.  * please forgive any typos I may have missed here. thx

Posted by: Dale Hayward | Mar 13, 2018 15:23

In the olden days we had city councilors that were able to use common sense and would not have allowed tons of plastic into the landfill Mt. Demo, about 100 years ago that is. Why not place a ban on hamburgers that contain plastic? How about all the single use plastic that food comes in like potato chips, cookies and junk. Trash bags are 100 times bigger and contain 100 times more plastic. The tree huggers win again. All five of them. There is more plastic in one councilors driveway than all the plastic bags will produce in the next 100 years, I predict. Great going Mr. Councilor while you fill the city with plastic you want to rid one little bag at a time. This council is specific agenda aimed at hugging and singing as they dance around the landfill and sing, "We shall Overcome".

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Mar 13, 2018 10:53

Maybe the stores can put the beer and cigarettes in reusable bags. Paper bags were made from paper generated in our now defunct paper industry. As long as we have people most will have to work for a living so all jobs cannot  eliminated. Sometimes I feel that the ones with all the causes have no feel for others. I know somehow we need to stop polluting  but eliminating people's jobs on adds to the problem.

Posted by: Susan Smith-Riedel | Mar 13, 2018 10:53

In the "olden days", straws were made out of paper.


Posted by: Annette M Tolman | Mar 13, 2018 10:38

ban on plastic straws?  What other kind of straw is there?  That just wouldn't work......

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Mar 13, 2018 10:24

several points that make you go "Hmmm".  First no one seems to care about the plastic bags we put our garbage in or the many large bags we rake our biodegradeable leaves into that make the whole package non-biodegrade .  Nor does anyone care that we as a society are moving away from recycling and into "single-stream" trash collection.  Secondly, few seem to have any interest in our housing crisis. They seem to be quite happy with their half acre in-town lots and two car garage.  Thank you city are a brave lot to put up with so much cow manure.

Posted by: WILL MOSS | Mar 13, 2018 10:21

What about the single-use plastic bags used for wrapping fish and meat, and other messy stuff?


Posted by: Stephen Betts | Mar 13, 2018 06:47

Trash bags are not prohibited. The banned bags are single-use bags given out by stores. The full wording of the law is on the Rockland web site.

Posted by: Donald Herrick | Mar 13, 2018 04:51

are trash bags going to be banned too. after all they are only single use bags

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Mar 13, 2018 04:22

"Two hours of public comment."  WOW! Shows that the council is taking time to listen and the public is taking the initiative to add their input in a productive way. Encouraging.

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