SCARBOROUGH — The town of Scarborough reminded residents on July 1 that they will need to bring reusable bags when shopping in order to avoid fees and reduce waste.

A statewide ban on single-use plastic bags has gone into effect, announced the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The ban includes retail stores, restaurants and shops.

“Shoppers are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags or totes for transporting their goods,” the Maine DEP said. “Stores may provide recycled paper bags or reusable bags for their customers. Grocery stores, box stores and other large retail stores that provide carry-out bags must collect a $0.05 fee for each bag except for reusable bags not made of plastic, such as cloth bags with stitched handles, which may be given away at no cost. Restaurants and certain smaller retailers (those with less than 2 percent of retail sales from food and less than 10,000 square feet of retail area) are not required to collect a $0.05 fee per bag but must comply with the single-use plastic carry-out bag ban and provide only reusable or recycled paper bags.”

In 2019, the Maine Legislature passed a ban on single-use plastic bags and had been scheduled to go into effect in April of 2020, the Maine DEP said.

“However, the ban’s enforcement was delayed twice, originally due to concerns regarding potential transmission of the COVID-19 virus, and again in December of 2020 due to concerns regarding a disruption in packing supplies and logistical effects caused by COVID-19 Pandemic,” said the Maine DEP. “The DEP encouraged businesses that provide single-use plastic carry-out bags to take advantage of the additional time provided by enforcement delays to procure alternatives and deplete current stocks of these products.”

Plastic bags do not decompose and the microplastics they can breakdown into create a negative impact on the environment, the Maine DEP said.

“According to the Centers for Biological Diversity, consumption of single-use plastic bags in the United States is estimated to average a bag a day (365) per person per year and the EPA estimates that in 2018, Americans generated nearly 9 billion pounds of PE films, bags and wraps annually,” said the Maine DEP.

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