2017-11-10 / Front Page

Cape: fee on bags, foam banned

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH – Shoppers should be prepared to bring their own reusable bags when they head to the grocery store or other stores that sell food in Cape Elizabeth.

On Monday, the town council approved changing the health and sanitation ordinance and begin charging customers five cents per single-use plastic or paper bag for their purchases and ban stores from using and selling polystyrene foam.

Town Councilor Patty Grennon, who is chairman of the ordinance committee, said the ordinance language is modeled after ordinances in South Portland and Portland. The plastic bags typically used at grocery store checkout are increasingly difficult to recycle.

“ecomaine does not accept the plastic bags anymore, so the real goal in this is to help us move that dial in reducing waste,” Grennon said.

Council Chairman Jamie Garvin, who represents Cape Elizabeth on the board of ecomaine, said the bags tend to “gum up the single-sort recycling” system.

“It causes a lot of downturn and the need for equipment repair, so it slows their efficiency,” Garvin said.

The ordinance committee, after months of review and debate, recommended at its Sept. 19 meeting that the single-use plastic or paper bag fee apply to all Cape Elizabeth retailers, but the full council rejected that recommendation and made it only apply to stores that sell food, including grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, pharmacies and farm stands. The fee does not apply to “bags on a roll,” which are typically used to package produce or meat.

Grennon said imposing the fee at food stores is a good start and the ordinance could be expanded to include all retailers in the future, if necessary. Garvin said members of the recycling committee touched base with retailers in town, who opined that customers are not used to bringing reusable bags in stores other than grocery stores at this point. There was also concern with how the situation might be handled at Portland Head Light Museum, which is patronized by many people who live out of town and would be unfamiliar with the ordinance.

Councilor Jessica Sullivan was the only councilor who voted against the bag fee. Councilors Kathy Ray, Sara Lennon, Grennon and Garvin approved it and councilors Penny Jordan and Caitlin Jordan had recused themselves from voting.

“It’s intent I support, but Cape Elizabeth is a small town. We have a handful of retail stores and grocery stores and I would prefer to see an education or outreach campaign of some kind. In our town, I think it would frankly be Draconian,” Sullivan said.

Lennon, who has followed the impact of the fee structure in other communities that have adopted it, said an educational campaign simply isn’t as effective. She said Hannaford Supermarket had signs in the stores reminding people not to forget their reusable bags, but people forgot and still opted for the single-use bags. Once the fee was put in place, patterns changed.

“The smallest financial incentive can, and does change behavior,” she said.

While the fee for single-use bags was not a unanimous decision, the banning of polystyrene foam was something the five councilors council could get behind.

As a result stores will be prohibited from selling or providing the foam product, a carcinogen, to customers. Polystyrene is typically used to make bowls, cups, plates, trays, take-out containers and egg cartons. The ban does not apply to the sale or packaging of perishable food for shipment, which “may include live shellfish or raw meet, raw vegetables or raw fruits” or in the case offederal, state or local emergency when the use of polystyrene foam is required.

“There are many alternatives out there. The stores in Cape Elizabeth are on board with the change,” Grennon said.

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

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