Proponents, opponents debate proposed Rockland plastic bag ban
ROCKLAND – Belfast has already instituted a plastic bag ban, Camden recently started the same discussion, as has Rockland. The latter is inviting citizens to attend an upcoming workshop in City Council Chambers, Monday, Feb. 26.
As municipalities and major retailers replace single-use plastic bags and carry-out containers with alternative packages, some Rockland consumers question how far to go with mandating such changes, and the people who rely on them. Others want to ban them altogether.
“This ordinance infringes on the rights of individuals and businesses,” said one Owls Head resident during the Rockland City Council meeting Feb. 12. “There’s no compelling data that’s been presented to the public in various news articles, which is all we’ve had access to, that suggests this ordinance is going to reduce waste and pollution in our waterways.”
“The science isn’t really all there,” Seth Mayfield, of Rockland, said. “If you enact a plastic bag ban, there’s going to be less plastic bags, that’s obvious, but overall impact, that’s still up in the air. There’s no hard science pointing to it having a positive overall environmental impact.”
But to Claire Weinberg, co-owner of Dulse and Rugosa, it is time to effect change. She walks the beach with her dog, and she picks up trash.
“I pick up a lot of trash,” she said. “Straws, coffee cups, drink lids and plastic bags.”
As an entrepreneur in a business of promoting natural resources, Weinberg has borne extra costs associated with non-plastic packaging. She told council that she understands the hardships businesses face when trying to avoid plastic, but she believes the effort is worth it.
Plastic trash breaks down, and marine animals and birds then ingest it, she said.
“I really think we need to find a solution to all the single-use plastic,” she said.
Chelsea Averitt, speaking on behalf of Good Tern Co-op, expressed similar sentiment. The organization approves of the ordinance, believing it will encourage recycling. The first R, as Averitt stated, stands for reduce. Then reuse. Then recycle.
Others cited the benefits of plastic bags.
“My biggest problem with this ban is that it hurts people who maybe don’t have the money to buy a bunch of reusable bags (that are often riddled with germs),” Mayfield said. “You get somebody from North Haven/Vinalhaven who comes over here. If they forgot their bags, they’re out of luck. Everybody from Vinalhaven/North Haven comes to Rockland to go shopping at Hannaford and Shaw's.”
Mayfield, having moved to Rockland a few months ago from North Haven, told the Rockland City Council that he uses his plastic bags to line a litter box and trash receptacles.
The Owls Head resident also uses her bags “many, many times” before returning them to Hannaford, Shaw’s, and the Thomaston Walmart.
“I do everything I can to reduce waste,” she said. “But I don’t see anything in this ordinance that states that you’re going to measure what the results of a single-use bag ban are going to be.”
She asked: If the City, or Renew Rockland, is passionate about plastic bag pollution, why aren’t members outside of stores educating the public?
“I would think that if an organization is so passionate about something, they should have been more visible to us,” she said.
Monday’s special City Council meeting and workshop begins at 5:30 p.m.
The agenda also includes:
- License & Permits – Council Action for Rock City Cafe
- Resolve #8 Appointments – Housing Task Force
- Resolve #9 Appointment – Planning Board (Chipman)
- Workshop – Plastic Bag, Styrofoam container bans
- Workshop – Accessory Dwelling Units