BATH — A handful of residents attended the first of two public meetings showcasing the city’s efforts to join neighboring Brunswick and Topsham in placing regulations on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam.

Public Works Director Lee Leiner gave an overview of the proposal at the first public information session on Sept. 13.

The ordinance was put together by the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, which was established to take a look at regulating plastic bags and polystyrene foam back in January.

The proposal would ban all single-use plastic bags at the cash registers of businesses, ban the use of polystyrene foam containers, and place an “escalating” fee on paper bags, starting at five-cents per bag.

In addition, the ordinance would establish an educational initiative on the city’s part that could potentially distribute reusable bags. The goal of the committee is to have the ordinance presented to City Council at its Oct. 4 meeting, and have a ban go into effect on Earth Day, April 22, 2018.

Leiner said the proposal would help reduce litter, protect the environment, and reduce the amount of tax money spent. “We definitely expend tax dollars in doing cleanup. If you’ve spent any time at the landfill, you’ve seen a seagull with a bag wrapped around it somehow.”

While Bath’s proposal mirrors that of other communities, the fee structure concept on paper bags would be the first of its kind in the state. The proposal would place an initial 5-cent fee on all paper bags, escalating year over year. After a year, the fee would raise to 10 cents, then to 15 cents.

The goal is to have a low cost initially to ease people into using and carrying reusable bags. The gradually increasing fee is intended to ween people off the use of paper bags. “A nickel is not a big disincentive to get a bag,” said Leiner.

Paper bags, he said, offer their own environmental problems. They require more fossil fuels to produce and ship, and end up having a heavy environmental impact on their own.

“Paper bags actually require more water, more chemicals, and create more pollution in their manufacture and transportation,” said Leiner. Additionally, no paper bags are produced in Maine. However, the ease of recycling them compared to plastic bags is the reason the committee decided to allow their use.

Councilor David Comeau, who attended the meeting, said he was still “on the fence” about the escalating fee structure.

“From what I’m hearing, the nickel fee is fine in my opinion,” he said. The increasing fee, however, may pose problems for businesses and residents. “I don’t see it anywhere else in the state.”

Despite the few concerns, most people attending were in support of the ordinance.

“I hope the council ratifies this ordinance,” said David Kaler. “I think it’s long overdue.”

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