Freeport became the first Cumberland County community Tuesday to ban single-use plastic bags in some stores, giving environmentalists a victory they’ve been awaiting for two years.

The 804-501 vote, in balloting at Freeport High School, means that, beginning in mid-September, the few stores in town that have more than 2 percent of their sales in food – such as Shaw’s – can no longer provide the carry-out plastic bags to customers. The vote also means that such stores must charge customers a 5-cent fee for paper bags.

The drive to ban the thin plastic bags that litter the countryside and are considered a danger to aquatic life began in Freeport two years ago, when Freeport High School seniors Meredith Broderick and Elly Bengtsson suggested an ordinance amendment to the Town Council. Both the Recycling/Solid Waste Committee, which strongly supported the ban, and the Ordinance Committee studied the proposal for nearly two years. Broderick and Bengtsson, now home for vacation following their sophomore years in college, were present at the May 17 Town Council meeting, when the council decided to put the question to the public vote.

Last October, the Town Council voted to schedule a non-binding referendum, suggesting a 5-cent fee on both plastic and paper bags. That prompted a so-called “citizen’s petition,” which had enough signatures to call for a ban on plastic and fee on paper. The council then decided to bypass the non-binding vote, setting the stage for the May 17 decision.

In other results from Tuesday, Freeport residents voted heavily in favor of an amendment to the town charter calling for free circulation of petition drives, 1,091-168, but the article failed because it did not have the required votes. The amendment to the town charter would have brought Freeport into compliance with state law regarding the manner in which the town governs recall and referendum petition drives. Article 8 of the town charter states that residents need to have their petitions signed in the presence of the town clerk. State election law calls for free circulation of petitions.

In voting conducted Tuesday at Freeport High School, residents approved a ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags in stores with food sales of more than 2 percent.


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