BATH — The City of Bath may follow several other Midcoast communities and enact a ban on all single-use plastic bags, polystyrene foam containers, and set a fee on paper bags.

Freeport and Brunswick have both already banned single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam containers, while Topsham has banned the containers and placed a five-cent fee on each plastic bag.

Bath’s proposal would also be in line with recent state-level legislation, as the Maine House passed a bill on April 13 that encourages municipalities to restrict the use of single-use plastic bags. So far, 11 cities and towns in Maine have enacted some form of ban or fee on single-use plastic bags.

“There’s plenty of precedent out there,” said Bath Public Works Director Lee Leiner.

Bath’s Solid Waste and Recycling Committee has been working on the potential ban since January. The committee will present two public meetings this month at 6 p.m. Sept. 13 and 19 about the proposal. The Sept. 13 meeting will be at City Hall, 55 Front St., and the following meeting will be at Patten Free Library, 33 Summer St.
“We did our workshop with the council the other day, then we’re going to have meetings with the public to get some feedback,” said Leiner. The committee is hoping to get feedback from both residents and business owners about the proposal.

Leiner said they don’t plan to “reinvent the wheel” with the proposed ordinance. Like ones in other towns, the proposal would ban single-use plastic bags, except “product bags” like those used for the storage of meat and vegetables at the grocery store. Temporary events, like fairs, festivals, or markets, would be exempt, as well.

For polystyrene foam containers, usage would be banned except for raw seafood or meat, or for items shipped a distance to the city (such as egg containers). Take-out containers or cups made of the material would be banned.

The issue for Bath, as it has been for other towns that have enacted regulations on the products, is the pollution they bring. The thin, light bags are often seen blowing around or stuck in trees on the sides of highways, jammed in storm drains, or more. Over time they break down into smaller particulates that can cause issues with wildlife that eat the indigestible plastic thinking it’s food.

“Either it’s inside of a storm drain or inside of a turtle, it’s not a good thing either way,” said Leiner.

The committee is hoping to have a complete proposal back to City Council in October, depending on public input. That would allow a referendum on the ordinance in November.

“The proposal is to have it an effective date of Earth Day in April of 2018,” said Leiner.