FALMOUTH — The Town Council Monday, Sept. 14 plans to discuss reinstating an ordinance restricting singles use plastic bags and again charging a fee when they’re used.

Falmouth was one of the first communities in Maine to restrict the use of free plastic bags by introducing a 5-cent fee in April 2016.

Councilor Hope Cahan said in August that while she supports reinstating the bag ordinance she also wants to see paper bags available for people who may be afraid of the virus and are unwilling to use plastic bags.

“I don’t understand why it has to be plastic, there is a paper option; I am not supportive of plastic ,” said Cahan.

Susan Hall, who was one of the catalysts behind the original ban, said at the time that Maine Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah “has said the chances of getting COVID-19 from a reusable bag are slim; it is not a good reason to be polluting our planet anymore.”

Councilor Pete Lafond agreed with Cahan about the ban, while Councilor Janice Delima said she wanted to give residents a chance to weigh-in.

According to a report given by town officials available on the Maine Real Estate Assessment Center’s website, about 2 million single-use plastic shopping bags were distributed to Falmouth customers each year as of 2015.

Stores affected by the change include Shaw’s, Hannaford, Goodwill, Walgreens, Staples and Walmart. According to the ordinance on the town’s website, the restriction doesn’t apply to smaller businesses or restaurants.

The applicable businesses in town, which are over 10,000 square feet, did not respond to messages about the impact of the fee or reduction of plastic bag litter by The Forecaster’s deadline.

In April 2020, the state had been set to institute a bag ban as well, but held off on the change until January 2021, after the COVID-19 pandemic caused most grocery stores to stop using reusable bags amid fears they could transmit COVID-19. Falmouth at the time also suspended its restriction.

Efforts in Falmouth to lessen the use of plastic bags took root in 2014, when Hall and other residents reached out to the town about their concerns. With the statewide ban, stores can still charge 5 cents for plastic or paper bags that can get 75 repeated uses and are made from heavier plastic.

“The plastic bags are reappearing again, there was a while I wasn’t seeing any,” Hall said. “If you don’t want to use your own bag, which I understand, use paper.”

“We had already banned them (through the pandemic as well),” Heather Steeves, a spokeswoman for the local Goodwill, said.  “It works for us, and it is the right thing to do since we usually have a bag someone has donated we can offer if someone needs it, and it is part of our sustainability goals to not have plastic.”

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