Southwest Harbor is the latest town in Maine to adopt a ban on the distribution of single-use plastic bags by local retailers.
The Mount Desert Island town held a special town meeting on Tuesday, a week after the statewide midterm elections, to consider whether to ban the distribution of such bags, which have been partially blamed for the increasing amount of plastic pollution in the oceans.
By a vote of 75 to 4, local residents approved the ban. In a separate 73-to-4 vote, they also approved a ban on the distribution of polystyrene — also called Styrofoam — food containers.
Several other towns and cities in Maine have enacted similar bans, hoping to decrease the amount of plastic that washes into the Gulf of Maine, where lobster and other commercially fished species live. According to Maine Department of Marine Resources, more than half a billion dollars worth of seafood — more than 75 percent of which were in lobster landings — were brought ashore in Maine in 2017.
Plastic shopping bag restrictions also have been enacted in Bath, Blue Hill, Belfast, Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Freeport, Kennebunk, Saco, South Portland, Topsham, York and Rockland, with Rockland’s ban scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2019.
Last week, voters in Waterville narrowly approved a similar measure that would apply only to stores 10,000 square feet or more in size. That ban will be subject to the outcome of a recount, however, after Mayor Nick Isgro, an opponent of the ban, led a petition effort to review the ballots.
Bangor considered enacting such a proposal but dropped the idea in the fall of 2017. The idea has been floated in Ellsworth — with all four candidates in last week’s City Council election saying they support the idea — but has not yet been submitted to the council for consideration.