Freeport town councilors Tuesday are expected to decide whether the town will pursue a ban on disposable plastic shopping bags.
The idea of banning plastic bags was first proposed locally last summer by two Freeport High School graduates, who argued that when the thin, inexpensive bags are discarded, they clutter landfills, litter oceans and contaminate fish and other sea life, posing a health hazard to animals and people.
But progress on the local ordinance has been incremental, and the town estimates that more research and legwork, requiring additional staff time, will be required if it is to proceed.
The discussion Tuesday by councilors will offer a chance for the public to hear where the elected officials stand on the issue.
“The ordinance committee is saying this is something that could take some time, some staff hours, some money,” said Town Manager Peter Joseph. “The question is: Do we want to go any further?”
Communities in other states have banned disposable plastic bags, but Freeport could become the first in Maine.
The discussion comes only a day ahead of restrictions that go into effect Wednesday in Portland, which is adding a nickel-per-bag surcharge for consumers who opt for plastic over reusable shopping bags – a fee that merchants keep – in a plan to deter their proliferation.
That measure was championed by EcoMaine and Friends of Casco Bay, among other groups, that see bags as a cheap short-term convenience that has widespread long-term costs.
Advocates and interested parties in Freeport have already done some preliminary research on whether a ban or some regulation would find support.
The ordinance committee conducted an informal survey, in which 70 percent of 779 respondents said they would support a bag ban.
Support for a bag fee akin to Portland’s found less support – 54 percent.
In a similar survey of business owners conducted by the Freeport Chamber of Commerce, 80 percent of the respondents said they do not use plastic bags. Business owners who said they would support a ban had a slim majority, at 51 percent, showing businesses’ ambivalence on the issue.
The Town Council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Freeport Town Hall.