Victory | January 11 2016
Plastic marine debris is a huge problem for the ocean. Most plastic pollution at sea starts out on land as litter on beaches, streets and sidewalks. Rain and overwatering lawns also flush litter through storm drains or directly to waterways that lead to the ocean. Once plastics enter the marine environment, they slowly photodegrade into smaller pieces that marine life can mistake for food, oftentimes with fatal results.
The Surfrider Foundation established its Rise Above Plastics program in 2007 as a way to begin addressing the issue of plastic marine debris by educating people about specific impacts of plastics pollution and ways to engage to help, including refusing & reducing the use of single-use products, like thin film plastic bags, reusing things, like take out containers, and finally, recycling. Bag ban and fee ordinances are one way that Surfrider Chapters engage in their communities to help mitigate plastic marine debris, as the fewer single-use plastics in circulation, the fewer single-use plastics in the wastestream or in the ocean!
The Town Council met on September 16 to hear public comments on the recommendation for a bag ban ordinance, and sent the issue to the Ordinance Committee, for their and October 6 meeting.
The Council then discussed the matter at their November 9 meeting at 7PM.
The original plan to mitigate plastic debris and encourage responsible consumer behavior in Falmouth was to phase out single-use plastic bags over the course of year one followed by a ban in year two, with a fee on single-use paper bags throughout.
The Council reported out favorably on November 9, and a public hearing was set for December 14, 2015.
The Council passed the single-use plastic bag ordinance in January 2016, which includes a 5-cent fee on all single-use bags, including paper, and goes into effect on April 1, 2016.
The Surfrider Foundation - Maine Chapter has been a part of this campaign since its inception in October 2014, working alongside the town's Recycling and Energy Advisory Committee to develop recommendations for Council consideration. We were successful in advocating for a mandatory, uniform fee to be assessed for all single-use plastic and paper bags, and in squashing an exemption for so-called "biodegradable plastic" and compostable bags.
While much of the important language we recommended for adoption was included in the final ordinance, a key provision that called for a mandatory, minimum fee to be assessed for all reusable bags - proposed to help close a loophole some stores are exploiting that allows them to thwart the intents of the law by distributing thicker plastic bags for free that are then being used in a single-use manner, was not included. Additionally, we advocated for the ordinance to align with Portland's in applying to all businesses that generate at least 2% of gross revenue from food sales, but this ordinance applies only to businesses larger than 10,000 square feet (in Falmouth, this means Hannaford's Supermarket, Shaw’s, Walmart, Staples, Rite Aid and Goodwill). Still, this ordinance is a great start that will have positive impacts on the Falmouth environment, and came to fruition, in part, due to the unwavering dedication of town employee, Kimberly Darling, who led the charge. We're stoked to be a part of this victory!
Thank you to all who sent letters and supported this campaign!
PLEASE become a supporting Surfrider Foundation member to help us continue our important work in Maine and around the US, protecting the ocean, waves and beaches we all love!
Rise Above Plastics is designed to eliminate the impacts of plastics in the marine environment by raising awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution and by advocating for a reduction of single-use plastics and the recycling of all plastics.Learn More