Bangor won’t be banning Styrofoam or plastic bags anytime soon.
City councilors during a Monday workshop voted 6-3 to drop two proposed ordinances aimed at reducing litter in the city: one banning merchants from selling food and drinks in plastic foam containers and another prohibiting plastic take-out bags from stores, Chairman Joe Baldacci said.
The decision eliminates Bangor from among at least a dozen Maine communities pursuing or enacting bans on plastic bags or polystyrene, which is used to make plastic foam products and is sometimes sold under the brand name Styrofoam.
The bans were aimed at reducing fisheries pollution and dependence on fossil fuels, which are used to make polystyrene.
Councilors opted to drop the proposals after discussing it twice in full meetings and at a half-dozen committee sessions.
Bangor Councilors Sean Faircloth, Gibran Graham and Sarah Nichols said the council was wrong to drop the issue.
“I feel that climate change is a proven fact and anything we can do about it on a local level is important,” Nichols said.
But the rest of the council felt the bans would have been too expensive for small businesses, Baldacci said. The Maine Restaurant Association, Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association and state agencies including the Maine Department of Environmental Protection have opposed statewide polystyrene bans.
“We feel that a wider public discussion needs to happen to build a consensus on this before we start imposing significant restrictions,” Baldacci said.
As proposed, city government would have been barred from purchasing polystyrene containers or using them on city premises or at city-sponsored events, and businesses would have been banned from selling them or serving food in them. The bag ordinance would have banned stores from offering plastic bags and would have levied a 5 cent fee for each paper bag.
Nichols said her position was undercut by the lack of “community groups championing this issue. That always makes a big difference.”
Councilors split on whether to pursue the bans when they held a goal-setting session in March. Baldacci, Graham and Nichols sought discussion of bans. Faircloth and the rest of the council wanted more public input, if not a delay of several months, saying the issue was complex and public opinion unclear.
Portland, South Portland, Brunswick, Topsham, Windham, Saco, Falmouth, York, Kennebunk and Freeport have banned or taxed single-use plastic bags, fearing their polluting impact upon fisheries and landfills. Portland, South Portland and Brunswick have banned polystyrene.