City Task Force OK’s Ordinance Intended to Reduce Consumer Use of Plastic/Paper Bags

Chris O'Neill, PCC, Liaison to City

Chris O’Neil, PCC, Liaison to City

By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,696)

A City Task Force, chaired by Councilor Ed Suslovic, approved an ordinance intended to discourage consumers from using plastic/paper bags and replace them with their reusable bags or pay .10 a piece.  The vote was not unanimously in favor of the ordinance.  It  will now go to a city committee for its consideration before being forwarded on to the City Council for its consideration –  that  would probably come in April – with an implementation date attached to it of April 1, 2015 – an arbitrary date selected to give vendors ample time to be ready for the change.

Earlier this month, the Green Packaging Task Force discussed charging consumers .10 per bag when carrying groceries home unless they provided their own bag(s).  It was decided to ask staff members to draft language that would include more retailers including restaurants, (including food trucks) and dry-cleaners in the ordinance.  At today’s meeting, those two venues became part of the ordinance as well as Farmers’ Markets and temporary events. Also part of the successful ordinance was a provision permitting the City Manager to make an exemption in cases of hard-ship.

Chris O’Neil, liaison to the city from the Portland Community Chamber, spoke against the ordinance promising a ‘food-fight” against it at the appropriate City Council meeting.  While the Chamber supports the goal of a clean city, don’t do this, he told the Task Force.  O’Neill supported a more modest approach. Opposed to the inclusion of restaurants in the ordinance was Greg Duval, the Maine Restaurant Association, saying it may be illegal to bring a reusable bag to a restaurant for this purpose. A city attorney is checking into that possibility.

Councilor Suslovic supported the ordinance, but said he felt it too broad and it would have been better to start smaller and then come back and add onto the ordinance as needed.  “I do not see dry cleaners bags clogging city drains,” he said.   “I would love to have big bags from Loew’s included in this ordinance, but our approach is solid and defensible because most of the bags are from grocery and convenience stores.”  Curtis Picard, Executive Director, for the Retail Association of Maine, said he was concerned about the “overreach” of the group and he would have to tell his members.

A vote to include newspaper bags in the ordinance was narrowly defeated by the Task Force.