Brunswick Town Manager John Eldridge said he expects staff will recommend in the spring that the Town Council remove the town’s single-use bag ordinance since the new state law effectively repeals local rules. The move comes following a new state law banning single-use bags passed by the Legislature earlier this year.

The Legislature passed a bill in June implementing a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at retail establishments. The bill mandates a 5-cent fee on either plastic or paper bags to provide shoppers an incentive to use reusable canvas or cloth bags.

According to the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the new law will preempt and is stronger than any local single-use bag ordinance.

Freeport also has a plastic bag ban in place effecting its two grocery stores and charges a 5-cent fee for paper bags. Freeport Councilor Sarah Tracey said the Freeport Town Council hasn’t yet discussed the new state law.

It’s a question Bath Public Works Director Lee Leiner said Friday that he hasn’t raised yet either.

Bath banned most single-use plastic bags in April 2018 and charged a 5-cent fee on paper bags. The council nixed the fee altogether in April when it was to increase to 15 cents, following pushback from the business community.

Topsham selectmen will ask voters to repeal a single-use bag ordinance that took effect in 2017. Selectmen unanimously voted last week to put the question on the May 2020 town meeting warrant.

David Douglass, chair of the select board, said last week that the local ordinance is no longer needed.

“The only way for us technically to remove it from our books to prevent confusion 22 years from now when somebody is standing at town meeting wondering why we have this thing, is we have to physically remove it,” he said.

The Topsham bag ordinance implemented a 5-cent fee for single-use paper or plastic bags. All stores must conform to this requirement unless the sale of food items makes up less than 2 percent of the total sales for the store. Restaurants are not subject to this requirement.

The ordinance aimed to help remove plastic bags from the environment and reduce the carbon footprint required to make paper bags. It was brought forward as a citizen initiative by Bring Your Own Bag Topsham, a group of Topsham residents concerned about the environmental danger the bags and polystyrene containers present.

Yvette Meunier was a member of the Bring Your Own Bag Midcoast group that pushed for single-use bag policies in Topsham and Brunswick. The Brunswick Town Council banned single-use plastic bags at stores in 2017. The new state law will trump them.

“I think it’s great,” she said Thursday. “I think it will start making us think deeper into other stewardship (issues). I think it’s going to make us think more about everything we carry out of the grocery store, especially with the change in what we can take to the recycling center.”

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