Letter to the editor: Rockland Main St. on the single use plastic bag ordinance

Posted:  Tuesday, March 13, 2018 - 11:15am

To the editor:

The City of Rockland is fortunate to have so many people that can work from two sides of an issue and still walk away speaking to each other.

Congratulations to Renew Rockland for their success in crafting an ordinance that eliminates single-use plastic bags and expanded polystyrene foam.

Kudos to Rockland City Council members who demonstrated patience and stamina during a lengthy public hearing, and who found the sweet spot in a complicated piece of legislation. Thanks to the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce for taking a thoughtful approach in presenting ideas.

I also want to recognize those businesses who have shown leadership in this matter over the past several months and who were willing to stand up and express their thoughts in supporting the most important part of the ordinance: the elimination of single-use plastic bags and expanded polystyrene foam containers, which will have a significant impact on the overall environment, on our City's reputation, and on the streets and waterways of Rockland.

While several businesses expressed their opinion in a variety of ways before the meeting, there were some who appeared in person. Among those businesses who brought credible and public testimony to City Council to help reach a compromise were representatives of Loyal Biscuit Co., Grasshopper Shop, Fiore Olive Oils and Vinegars, Good Tern Co-op, and Southend Grocery. Others were in the room who provided quiet support for compromise.

The portion of the ordinance that would require merchants to charge their customers a fee for paper bags was amended out of the ordinance and will be explored in the future.

The new ordinance is expected to go into effect on the 1st of January 2019, providing small businesses an opportunity to diminish their existing inventories of the soon-to-be-banned bags and containers.

In the meantime, Rockland Main Street, Inc. has engaged the support of 8 non-retail businesses and organizations to create a fund to acquire reusable bags that will be distributed to the general public beginning in April of this year. These bags are intended to be given away at no charge to local residents to assist in the effort to change behavior, and to help further reduce the use of not only single-use plastic bags, but paper bags as well.

Those generous businesses include: Evergreen Home Performance; First National Bank; Island Institute; J. Edward Knight Insurance; Rockland Kiwanis Club; Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors; Pen Bay Medical Center; and Penobscot Bay YMCA.

Many thanks to all who participated in the process!

My Personal Regards,

Gordon Page, Sr., Executive Director, Rockland Main Street, Inc.

Gordon Page lives in Owls Head.