BATH — Sharon Cox has spent her life advocating for protecting the environment and doing anything she could to eliminate using disposable plastic bags. But she admitted she’s also forgetful.

“I’m all for getting rid of the bags at grocery stores and places like Walmart and Target, but I also know that they are just so convenient if you don’t remember to bring your own,” said Cox while shopping last week at Renys on Front Street.

The Bath City Council’s ban on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam takes effect on April 22, Earth Day, and follows similar action in surrounding communities including Topsham, Brunswick, and Freeport.

City officials will be giving out “Bath Bags” at Brackett’s Market and Shaw’s Supermarket Thursday, April 19, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, April 20, from 10 a.m. to noon, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, April 21, 8 a.m. to noon and Sunday, April 22, 8 a.m. to noon.

Business owners and customers in Bath said the new regulations and parameters will take some getting used to. Dan Stanton, grocery manager at Brackett’s Market, said he thinks the store is ready for the change.

“We’re slowly phasing out plastic bags and deciding which way we’re going to go on paper,” Stanton said. “We’re probably going to have three different sizes of paper bags.”

For the health of the environment, eliminating paper bags, too, would go a long way, but Stanton said that isn’t a long-term plan because there are always going to be people who forget their bags.

“(The store) is seeing a lot more people coming in with their own bags in their hands, so they’re starting to learn,” he said.

The City Council went further than any other community in Maine by imposing an escalating fee structure on the use of paper bags. A new ordinance places a 5-cent fee on paper shopping bags that will rise to 10 cents in year two before reaching a 15-cent cap in the third year.

Lee Leiner, Bath’s public works director, said there was some discussion among members of the Solid Waste and Recycling Committee to make the fees higher to more strongly discourage the use of single-use bags, but the committee ultimately decided against it.

“The committee came up with a creative way to discourage using bags initially with a rather modest fee and then phase them out as the fee increases,” he said.

Leiner said the word is spreading amongst residents and business owners that this change is coming, and he gave credit to the committee, city officials and the City Council for sharing information about the ban.

“We’re getting some feedback on social media and there are calls coming in from businesses who want to give away our bags,” Leiner said. “People we talk to in the business community seem to be ready and prepared.”

The city will be kicking-off the reusable bag effort by supplying 3,500 “Bath Bags,” which will be free and available at many local businesses. There will be tables set up at Brackett’s Market and Shaw’s leading up to April 22.

Leiner said that while single-use plastic bags are cheaper for businesses to supply, they are wasteful and contribute to a throw-away society.

He said the earth’s resources are not unlimited and therefore should be used to make things that are durable, an idea supported by earlier generations.

“This is not a new concept, but rather a return to a time of more deliberate use of resources,” he said.

Cox, who is in the Midcoast visiting family, said she supports the ban but wishes communities were able to impose higher fees, because she said 5 cents isn’t enough to get someone to bring their own bags.

“To really make a huge impact, I think towns and cities should charge people $1 or more if they don’t have their own bags, and they should offer some sort of small discount for people who come to the store prepared,” she said.

Brunswick and Topsham last year implemented ordinances that banned or discouraged the use of plastic bags, and in Freeport, single-use plastic bags were banned after a ban on polystyrene foam was in place for more than 25 years.

A citizen organization called “Bring Your Own Bag” worked for almost two years to get the bans imposed. Brunswick’s council voted 8 – 1 in favor of a new ordinance, and in Topsham, the ordinance was approved after residents collected petition signatures to override the Select Board’s rejection of a fee or ban.

Paper bags are considered more environmentally friendly than plastic bags because they are easily recycled and can be composted, and they are often made from sustainable raw material.

However, Leiner said, the manufacturing of paper bags requires significant amounts of water, chemicals and fossil fuels, and there is no place in Maine that makes them.

“Paper bags were not banned in order to preserve a choice for the consumer,” Leiner said. Fees collected by retailers for the sale of paper bags are not taxed, and the revenue is kept by the retailer.

Ann Wilson, of Brunswick, was shopping in Bath last week with a family member and said living in a town with one ordinance and shopping in places with different ordinances is something everyone will eventually have to get used to.

She said the easiest thing is to always carry your own shopping bags wherever you shop.

“It’s the best way to make sure you’re not having to pay for a paper bag, you’re taking steps to help preserve the planet and you’re doing a good thing for the community,” Wilson said. “But I can see how it might confuse some people.”

Leiner agreed and said he wished there was some way to have a uniform plan in place across municipalities. It can be especially challenging for businesses that operate in multiple cities and towns, like Renys, Shaw’s and Hannaford. One store might be able to continue using plastic bags while the same retailer in another town has to follow different policies.

“There’s clearly a patchwork of ordinances with subtle differences in the region, and most of the communities would probably agree that some sort of uniformity would be helpful,” Leiner said. “We would be supportive of a more uniform application of the concept.”

State officials from the Department of Environmental Protection are aware of the different ordinances in different towns across Maine, and Leiner said if there was enough momentum and enough towns that do it, it would gather the state’s attention.

Bath will also begin banning polystyrene foam containers, like the ones used by food trucks and take-out food vendors, on April 22.

Businesses will be required to substitute containers made from other materials and are being encouraged by Bath officials to choose sustainable, compostable, recyclable and reusable resources — there is an exception for the sale of raw meats and raw or live seafood.

“This is a big step for Bath, and with Topsham and Brunswick already doing something similar, the Midcoast can be a leader in keeping our environment healthy in Maine,” Wilson said.