BELFAST — The Belfast City Council voted to enact an ordinance completely banning the use of single use plastic bags, as well as Styrofoam food and drink containers at its Aug. 15 meeting.
A group of citizens first raised the issue with the city nearly a year earlier, with city council members hashing out the details for well over six months, according to Mayor Walter Ash Jr.
While one member of the Council, John Arrison, missed the meeting, the remaining five members voted unanimously to approve both bans.
The ordinance goes into effect Jan. 1, which the council believes is ample time for businesses and shoppers alike to prepare.
The Council rejected an idea to forgo an outright ban in favor of charging five to 10 cents per bag, saying it would defeat the purpose of the ordinance.
“That’s the reason we’re making the ordinance to ban them,” Councilor Eric Sanders said, of the proposed fee.
While the ban applies to single-use plastic bags, it does not affect other types of plastic bags, such as those used for used tires, clean dry-cleaning, and dog-waste bags.
Likewise, the ban on Styrofoam pertains only to take out food and drink containers, but not trays used by Hannaford when selling different meat products.
The verbiage in the official ordinance was changed from Styrofoam, which is a trademarked brand, to the generic ‘expanded polystyrene.’
Of the compliance deadline, Councilor Neal Harkness said that the council is “extremely optimistic” that local businesses will participate, but that they will handle noncompliance as it comes.
“If there are scofflaws that need more teeth in the law we will know,” he said, adding that they will deal with such issues when and if they arise.
Council members are hoping the plastic bag ban does more than just make people switch to paper, and leads more people to use reusable bags instead. Harkness said the Council is hoping to work with the community to steer people toward reusable bags over the paper variety.
Mary Mortier, Ward One Councilor, said part of working with the public will be focusing on educating them on why the ban is beneficial not only for the environment, but for the town in general.
For those who may focus on the potential inconvenience of the ordinance, Sanders offered both his apologies, and his thoughts on the issue.
“We’re trying to lessen the inconvenience of earth as well, and that’s why we’re making this [ordinance],” he said.
The Belfast City Council meets in City Hall on the first and third Tuesday of every month.
Erica Thoms can be reached at email@example.com