March 8, 2013

Portland launches effort to ban polystyrene cups, plastic bags

By Randy Billings
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Styrofoam

Do you think Portland should ban Styrofoam cups and food packaging?



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click image to enlarge

Shawna Humiston of Portland says she wouldn't support a ban on polystyrene because she doesn't think other types of to-go cups keep coffee warm enough. Photographed outside the Dunkin' Donuts on Free Street in Portland on Thursday, March 7, 2013.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Richard Grotton, executive director of the Maine Restaurant Association, also serves on the working group. He said the group must make sure there is a reasonable alternative to polystyrene, which can keep food hot or cold at a low price, if it is banned.

"So far, I'm not finding any," Grotton said.

Finding a way to reduce the use of plastic bags -- either through a ban or a per-bag fee -- will be more complicated, Suslovic said, so it will be discussed after the polystyrene ordinance is crafted.

In 2011, Portland considered, but tabled, a similar discussion about bags.

In May, the Windham Town Council adopted a resolution asking the Legislature to pass a statewide ban on plastic bags with less than 40 percent recycled material.

The resolution was adopted after a middle school student asked the council to assess a 10-cents-per-bag fee on plastic bags and the town attorney ruled that the town didn't have the authority to tax items like plastic shopping bags.

Windham's effort also drew opposition from Helix Poly, a major manufacturer of plastic bags that was represented by the Verrill Dana law firm.

The Legislature also debated a fee aimed at discouraging the use of plastic bags. The discussion led to voluntary reduction efforts by grocery store chains.

Hannaford Supermarkets spokesman Michael Norton said the company has been working to get its customers to switch from disposable plastic bags to reusable cloth bags.

He referred questions about Portland's efforts to the Maine Grocers Association and the Mainer Retail Association. Neither group could be reached Thursday.

Plastic bags are a common form of litter in Portland, said Alexandra Fields, a preservation associate with Environment Maine who serves on the working group.

"From where I'm sitting now, I can see a plastic bag in a tree," Fields said Thursday in a phone interview from the group's offices in the State Theatre building.

Marine animals -- from birds to whales -- mistake plastic bags for food and can suffocate or starve from eating them, she said.

"Maine's fisheries are important," Fields said. "Nothing we use for five minutes should be polluting our environment for a lifetime."

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at
Twitter: @randybillings

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Today's poll: Styrofoam

Do you think Portland should ban Styrofoam cups and food packaging?



View Results