FALMOUTH — Town officials are trying to determine whether residents and business owners want single-use plastic shopping bags to be regulated through fees or a ban.

So far they are receiving mixed responses to several polls on the issue.

Kimberly Darling, coordinator for the Recycling and Energy Advisory Committee, said the issue arose in June after the Portland City Council adopted a nickel fee – to take effect next April 15 – on disposable plastic and paper shopping bags to discourage their use in the city. Some Falmouth residents contacted town councilors asking them to consider a similar measure. The council asked the recycling committee to look into it.

“We have been given until the first of the year to report back,” Darling said Sunday.

Non-biodegradable plastic bags are a major source of litter, particularly in the ocean, where they have been found in the stomachs of endangered wildlife and birds, according to the Earth Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., organization focused on environmental sustainability. European countries such as Ireland that have placed a fee on the plastic bags have seen usage drop by up to 90 percent, the institute says.

In the United States, 133 municipalities and counties regulate plastic bags.

In Maine, selectmen in Kennebunk voted in July against putting a proposal to regulate the bags before voters. Freeport’s ordinance subcommittee is studying whether to regulate the bags at the request of the Town Council, after two Freeport High School students asked councilors to consider some regulation.

The ordinance subcommittee has surveyed Freeport businesses, and about 700 voters were surveyed on Election Day. Results of those surveys are still being tabulated, said Sarah Tracy, town councilor and chairwoman of the ordinance subcommittee.

In Falmouth, the recycling committee has done several surveys to gauge public opinion on regulating plastic shopping bags. Eighty percent of 263 people surveyed on Election Day by recycling committee members and high school volunteers said they would support either a ban or a nickel or quarter fee on the bags, and 20 percent said they did not support any regulation.

A separate survey sent last week to the town website’s 3,000 subscribers is showing different results. Darling said many of the 300 responses so far have favored no regulation. Results of that survey are still coming in, she said.

A public forum on the issue last Tuesday drew 10 people – only five of them representing the several hundred Falmouth businesses invited to the forum, and too few to draw any conclusions, Darling said.

Some shoppers at Shaw’s at the Falmouth Shopping Center said Sunday they would not mind if the bags were regulated.

Peggy Bradley of Falmouth, who has provided her own reusable shopping bags for years, said she would support a nickel fee.

Marie and Don Sullivan of Portland, who shop at the Falmouth Shaw’s frequently, said they would continue to shop there even if there was a ban on the bags.

“We have a couple of ‘green’ kids and a daughter who is a real tree hugger,” said Don Sullivan.

Rhea Kafer of Falmouth said she has lived in communities with plastic bag fees and is in favor of a 10-cents-per-bag fee in Falmouth.

“But 25 cents is ridiculous,” Kafer said.

Elizabeth Morgan of Portland said she is in favor of regulating plastic bags.

“It would force me to remember to bring my own bags,” said Morgan, who sometimes forgets to carry her reusable bags into the grocery store.

Darling said the committee will schedule another forum targeted at businesses that use plastic shopping bags before Jan. 1. Then it will go back and report its findings to the Town Council, she said.