As a cosponsor of the bill to ban single-use plastic carry-out bags, I appreciate the thorough article in last week’s paper. I’m sure the community members who I joined last weekend in cleaning up Ellsworth roadsides and beautiful Card Brook would attest to the truth of the article’s statement that many plastic bags can be found “clogging streams, caught in trees, or in the ocean.” This topic is complex, so I’d like to provide more information.
The legislation was drafted with the help of the Retail Association of Maine and the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association, and it has the support of the 34 environmental and public health organizations that form the Environmental Priorities Coalition. This bill addresses the concerns of the retailers and grocers who are looking for regulatory and competitive uniformity, while also satisfying those interested in reducing plastic waste. It is the exact sort of compromise legislation that I hoped could be possible in Augusta.
The article mentions studies that indicate single-use plastic bags are more environmentally friendly than alternatives. I do not dispute that thin plastic bags have a lower carbon footprint to produce, but carbon is only one of many environmental impacts. Our ocean is on track to have as many pounds of plastic as fish by 2050, and plastic bags are ranked as the second deadliest ocean trash by the Ocean Conservancy.
I’m not surprised that when single-use bags were eliminated in November 2016, that Californians bought more reusable bags. The reported net decrease of 28 million pounds of plastic bags is impressive.
Denmark began taxing plastic bags in 1993, now at 50 cents, and Danes use an average of four single-use plastic bags a year (National Geographic, May 2018). Despite the Danish EPA’s February 2018 study referenced in the article, the Danish Parliament was reported to support an outright ban of single-use plastic bags in December 2018 in the Danish paper Politiken.
As for PERC in Orrington, which accepts Ellsworth’s solid waste, they do not currently have any issue processing plastic bags. Ecomaine (which processes solid waste and recycling) stated in their testimony, “plastic bags and films wrap around the axles and gears of [our] sorting machinery, costing valuable time, manpower, and expense.”
Although bags are not the biggest source of plastic pollution in our environment, the absence of a single-use bag at the checkout stand could be the starting point for a broader awareness that our daily choices do matter.
Nicole Grohoski, Representative
House Seat 132