YORK, Maine — On the third year anniversary of passage of the town’s plastic ban ordinance, the York Board of Selectmen Monday night unanimously agreed to begin the process that could end in the ban of yet another type of plastic from use in town — polystyrene foam.
Selectmen have agreed to set up public hearings on an ordinance that will be put before voters next May. They made the decision after hearing from a number of York High School students, who for the second year in a row have promoted the ban. In addition, community members and several teachers also came out to support the ordinance.
Town Manager Steve Burns crafted the proposed ordinance, based on language supplied by proponents earlier this year. It states that retail establishments can’t serve or sell food or beverages using polystyrene packaging or containers — like takeout food containers or meat packaging; nor can they sell polystyrene food or beverage containers themselves — like coffee cups, for instance.
Finally, the proposal prohibits the town and schools from using polystyrene. Exempted are nonprofits and religious organizations.
The penalties are identical to that imposed under the plastic bag ban: $50 for the first offense, and $100 for second and subsequent offenses. Burns said as much as possible, he tried to mirror language in the plastic bag ban, on the assumption that there are likely to be more plastic ban proposals in the future, “so the more consistency the better.”
Senior Caroline Leal said she and classmate Hannah Gennaro were both on the field hockey team that lost the state championship on Saturday. “It was a painful loss,” Leal told selectmen, “but tonight, the stakes are much higher. Tonight we are saying to you, the adults and policy makers of our town, we need you on our side. We need you to feel the urgency we feel.”
Gennaro said she is busy with advanced placement classes, sports, extra-curricular activities and applying to colleges. “However, this takes priority over all my activities and commitments. I am determined to do my part to ensure that York remains a beautiful and clean place to live and work.”
York resident Victoria Simon, who led the plastic bag ban and has been working with these students on this polystyrene ban, said the selectmen’s decision to move the ordinance forward “is the perfect way to honor the success (of the plastic bag ban) and continue the forward momentum to reduce the amount of toxic plastic entering our waste stream and littering our beaches.”
YMS teacher Jeff Wilford told selectmen, “Have York teachers taught children about sustainability and the need to be good stewards of our natural resources? Absolutely. Am I surprised to see these young people here tonight? Absolutely not. These young people are looking to us to make decisions to help protect their future and their children’s future.”
All five selectmen said they applauded the students’ initiative, but several raised concerns. The public hearings on the ordinance will be held in January and February, a time when summer business owners may not be here, said Dawn Sevigny Watson. After some discussion, the board asked Burns to reach out to the Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce and ask them to notify their members. Any business owner would be welcome to send a letter to board if they are unable to attend the hearings.
Todd Frederick asked the group to reach out to nonprofits and religious groups to educate them on the importance of banning polystyrene, and the students agreed to do that.
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