2017-09-15 / Community

Council: Consideration on foam ban still needs work

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH – The town council is expected to put into place an ordinance that bans polystyrene foam use and sale in town and levy a 5 cent fee to a customer who uses a single use paper or plastic bag for their purchases, but decided Monday to send the idea back to the ordinance committee for extra vetting.

The ordinance committee has been looking into making the changes over the last few months, modeling Cape Elizabeth’s ordinance on similar ordinances used in Portland and South Portland.

Those ordinances, however, limit the single use bag fee to just those retail establishments that sell food and beverage. Councilor Penny Jordan, who has recused herself from the vote because she owns a business that could be impacted, wondered, why the ordinance would not include all retail establishments. Speaking as a resident and not a councilor, she told members of the council she did not agree with singling one type of retail establishment out over another.

“There are many other places in town that sell things in plastic bags with handles,” she said.

Kara Lavender Law, chairman of the recycling committee, a group that recommends the aforementioned ordinance changes, said most of the non-reusable plastic bags in Cape Elizabeth come from food stores. South Portland, she said, chose not to include all retailers because it would have meant stores at the mall would have to comply, a daunting enforcement task.

That’s not to say, including all retail establishments in town, wouldn’t work for Cape Elizabeth. The ordinance committee is expected to look into that at an upcoming meeting before the council reviews the ordinance changes again at its Oct. 11 meeting. The committee will also look into a concern Councilor Caitlin Jordan, who also recused herself from voting due to also operating a business that could be impacted, had with the definition of food handler.

“As much as I would like to move this forward (to a public hearing), I think the appropriate step is to send it back to ordinance (committee),” said Council Chairman Jamie Garvin.

Regardless of where the plastic bags come from, Law said non-reusable plastic bags are adding to the waste stream.

“Since we proposed these amendments to the ordinance committee, ecomaine has stopped accepting plastic bags and the reason for that is they gum up their sorting system,” Law said, adding the only way the bags can be recycled is by bringing them back to a grocery store.

Councilor Patty Grennon, who is chairman of the ordinance committee, said since the nickel fee for single use bags was implemented at Hannaford, the supermarket has seen an 80 percent reduction in their use.

“It’s a pretty significant way to motivate people to reduce waste,” she said.

The polystyrene foam, or PS foam, ban is aimed at reducing waste, but also at improving the environment.

“PS foam packaging and remnants have a lasting negative impact on the environment,” Grennon said. “It is a pollutant and made up of styrene and benzene, both carcinogenic compounds. Because PS foam is a known pollutant there are many good alternatives and consequently many of the businesses in town have discontinued the use of PS foam and packaging.”

The polystyrene foam ban would bar the use and sale of such products across Cape Elizabeth except in the cases of public emergency or perishable food shipment. The plastic bag fee does not apply to “bag on a roll,” the non-handle plastic bag that is typically used to package produce and meat.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

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