The Biddeford City Council on Tuesday will consider a proposal to prohibit local stores from using single-use plastic shopping bags.

If the council approves the ban, Biddeford will join a growing number of Maine towns and cities that have passed local ordinances related to single-use plastic shopping bags. Twenty communities across the state have enacted either outright bans or fees on plastic shopping bags and at least a half-dozen more are considering local ordinances. Lawmakers in Augusta are also considering bills that would ban the use of the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag statewide.

Municipalities in southern Maine with bag bans include Brunswick, Freeport, Kennebunk, Saco and York. Communities with fees for plastic bags include Portland, South Portland, Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth.

Biddeford officials concerned about pollution have talked for years about reducing the number of plastic bags floating in the Saco River, clogging storm drains and being flushed into the sewer system. But talk of a local ordinance began to move forward as city officials became more concerned about the plastic shopping bags contaminating loads of recycling collected in curbside bins.

Single-use plastic shopping bags – like the ones used in grocery and convenience stores – can be recycled, but must be returned to retailers instead of included in recycling streams with other recyclable products.

The ordinance being considered in Biddeford would prohibit retailers from using plastic shopping bags, but does allow them to provide paper bags or reusable plastic shopping bags for free or for a fee. It does not prohibit the use of plastic bags inside the store to hold produce, meat, seafood, bulk items or prescriptions.

Biddeford stores would be able to continue using single-use plastic bags until Sept. 30 to deplete their existing supply.

Stores that violate the ordinance would be subject to a $250 fine for the first violation in a one-year period and up to $500 for each subsequent violation. The code enforcement officer would enforce the ordinance.

The city’s Policy Committee unanimously recommended that the City Council pass the ordinance.

The council is scheduled to discuss the ordinance and take an initial vote on the proposal during a meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Members of the public will be allowed to comment before the vote.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: grahamgillian

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