Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, single-use plastic bags and carryout polystyrene foam containers will no longer be permitted in Rockland.
The City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a ban on these materials, based on concerns about their environmental impacts. The move adds to a trend in Maine coastal communities, mirroring similar ordinances in Portland, Topsham, Freeport, Brunswick, Bath and Belfast.
The original ordinance proposal included a fee structure for paper bags that stores would sell if shoppers did not bring a reusable bag. However, councilors removed language about the bag fee from the ordinance, allowing further discussion before the ban goes into effect.
There has been widespread support for a ban on single-use plastic bags in Rockland. More than 20 people spoke during a 90-minute public comment period Monday night, largely in support of at least banning single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam.
“The ban on plastic bags and Styrofoam containers sends to both locals and to tourists a forward-thinking and forward-acting community image,” said Chris Curro, a Rockland resident and manager of the Good Tern Co-op.
However, the proposed fee on paper bags gained less of a consensus, especially among business owners.
The proposal calls for paper bag fees to increase incrementally. For the first year, the proposed fee per paper bag would five cents, before going up to 10 cents in the second year and 15 cents in the third. The reasoning for the fee on the paper bags is to incentivize the use of the reusable bags.
Small business owners said this would affect them more than it would larger grocery or big box stores.
“I fully support the plastic bag and Styrofoam ban. I think we can all agree it’s really important to reduce waste,” said Sierra Dietz, owner of the Grasshopper Shop. “My issue is being told how to run my business and how to interact with my customers.”
Councilor Ed Glaser, who sponsored the ban, moved to strike the fee from the ordinance and work with the business community during the next few months to try to achieve compromise on the paper bag fee.
“This gives everyone an opportunity to get on board for the next step,” Glaser said.
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