BATH — With Earth Day about a month away – along with a ban on the distribution of disposable plastic shopping bags and polystyrene containers – a design is ready for the city’s free, reusable “Bath Bags.”

The city is ordering 3,500 bags for distribution to shoppers, and Public Works Director Lee Leiner said March 9 that he expected them to be delivered within two weeks.

The non-woven, royal blue tote bags will be composed of recyclable 80-gram coated water-resistant polypropylene, he said, and will be 13 by 15 by 10 inches.

The order came to $4,500, which the city drew from City Council contingency funds for as many bags as the budget allowed, Leiner said. Distribution methods and the timeline are still being worked out.

The City Council authorized the ban on plastic bags and polystyrene containers in separate votes last October and November. The decision followed two “Bring Your Own Bag” informational forums hosted in September 2017 by Bath’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee, which began studying the issue that January.

The delay in enacting the ban until Earth Day on April 22 allows time to spread the word, as well as allowing businesses to use up their stocks of disposable bags.

A decal is also to be supplied for display by the impacted businesses, informing customers of the change. The committee plans to get the word out with increasing frequency as Earth Day approaches, reminding residents to bring their Bath Bags to stores.

The policy is intended to clean up Bath’s environment by getting rid of bags that clog storm drains, adversely impact wildlife and waterways, and do not biodegrade.

The ban comprises non-reusable bags distributed at all Bath businesses. Paper bags would remain available, but users will be assessed a charge of 5 cents per bag the first year, 10 cents the second, and 15 cents from the third year forward. Businesses would retain bag revenues.

The escalated fees are meant to wean consumers off store-distributed bags in favor of bringing their own. Businesses can also choose not to offer paper bags.

The ordinance exempts bags without handles used to carry meat, produce, seafood and prescriptions, along with bags distributed at short-term festivals, fairs and flea markets.

Businesses would be able to give away or sell their own bags that meet reusable-bag standards.

The ban on polystyrene foam is aimed at containers usually used for food preparation and sale, with the exception of raw meat and raw and live seafood. Similar to plastic bags, such containers add to litter, do not biodegrade, and require consumption of fossil fuels to make and transport, according to the committee.

Stores could continue to sell polystyrene products like foam cups, but restaurants, for example, will not be allowed to serve prepared coffee in a foam cup.

Copies of both ordinances are available at cityofbath.com, and the documents can also be emailed or picked up at City Hall.

Topsham’s 5-cent fee on single-use shopping bags and ban on the use of polystyrene foam containers took effect last May. Brunswick a year ago banned single-use plastic bags from most town retailers starting September 2017; Falmouth has a 5-cent fee on both kinds of bags at stores of more than 10,000 square feet; Freeport bans plastic bags and has a 5-cent fee on paper, and Portland has a 5-cent fee on both types of bags. Cape Elizabeth last fall approved a 5-cent fee on plastic bags and a ban on foam containers.

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