Portland, Maine, has put a plastic bag fee and foam ban in place, effective on April 15th. This comes after a dedicated task force, which was led by local city councilor Ed Suslovic, studied the issue for the past year. The amendments to the City Code stipulates that a five-cent fee is required for paper or plastic bags used for purchases made from grocery or convenience stores, pharmacies and farmers markets. No fee will be applied to smaller bags used for produce.
The ban on polystyrene foam is aimed primarily at reducing the number of foam foodservice products, such as clamshells, meat trays, cups and trays. This means that neither food packagers nor retailers in Portland can use foam containers. The idea of this ban is to reduce the quantity of litter formed from these products, but a ban on a certain material doesn’t reduce or eliminate the behavior that causes the litter in the first place.
Alternatives to foam will cost between two and five times the price of the products currently in use and in most cases, are not anymore eco-friendly. For example, paper-lined products that are soiled with food cannot be recycled.
Additionally, this ban does not cover foods packaged outside of Portland and transported in, which means that there still won’t be any procedures in place to tackle foam being incinerated. The only exceptions to the foam ban are the packaging and sale of raw seafood.
Councilor Suslovic has said that ultimately he wants to see the City of Portland free from polystyrene foam, but with the raw seafood exception and the inbound foam packaged food, this is an unrealistic goal. Many Portland business owners have also stressed concern over the cost that this will have on them, particularly smaller businesses with slim profit margins. If the idea was to reduce the quantity of foam entering the incinerator, then a recycling option would be more effective. Drop-off recycling centers have seen great success in a number of cities around the world and would be a great start for Portland if curbside foam recycling isn’t currently feasible.
Source: BDN Maine