The Falmouth Town Council approved an ordinance this week establishing a 5-cent fee on paper and plastic carry-out bags at half a dozen stores in town.

The narrowly tailored ordinance, written after considerable evaluation by town officials and the public, will apply only to businesses larger than 10,000 square feet. Right now in Falmouth, that means only Hannaford, Shaw’s, Wal-Mart, Staples, Rite Aid and Goodwill will have to charge the fee, which will be kept by the retailers. The ordinance takes effect April 1.

Small businesses were exempted after discussion in Falmouth’s small-business community. Some business owners said they don’t use plastic bags or don’t have the capacity to implement the fee and track collections, said Kimberly Darling, the town’s energy and sustainability coordinator.

“We decided the biggest distributors of plastic bags are really from these larger stores,” she said.

Also exempt are restaurants, dry cleaners and greenhouses, Darling said.

Falmouth is the latest community to adopt such a fee. Portland implemented a 5-cent fee in April, and also banned plastic foam containers. Portland’s ordinance applies to all businesses that generate at least 2 percent of gross revenue from food sales.

South Portland passed an ordinance identical to Portland’s. It will take effect March 1. Freeport is considering a similar ordinance, and is expected to poll residents during a future Election Day.


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