Belfast bans single-use plastic bags, Styrofoam containers

Council OKs union contract, promotes cop, spares 150-year-old maple
By Ethan Andrews | Aug 16, 2017

Belfast — Single-use plastic bags and certain Styrofoam® containers will be off limits starting Jan. 1, 2018. The City Council on Aug. 15 banned both in an effort to curb environmental pollution and littering in the city.

The bag ordinance defines "single use" bags as those given at the point of sale to take merchandise out of the store, of plastic less than 4 mils thick, and made to carry less than 18 pounds. Though the ordinance targets the thin bags commonly used at grocery store checkouts, the new rules apply to all stores.

Stores still will have the option of offering paper bags. The council rejected a provision that would allow stores to offer plastic bags for a fee of 5 or 10 cents on grounds that doing so would defeat the purpose of the ban.

The Styrofoam ordinance bans expanded polystyrene foam food and drink containers but not the trays used for raw meats in grocery stores.

Belfast joins nine other Maine municipalities with bag ordinances and six with rules for polystyrene containers (see "Related Information" at the end of this article).

The bag ordinance was first proposed by the citizen group Ban the Bag in Belfast. The council subsequently added polystyrene containers after Councilor Mike Hurley conducted a cleanup of roadside trash and reported that plastic bags made up only a small percentage of the haul.

Roughly seven supporters and one opponent of the ordinances spoke Aug. 15. The plastic bag ordinance has been a topic of council discussion for close to a year. Councilor John Arrison was absent, but the remaining four councilors approved both ordinances unanimously.

In other business, the council:

• Authorized spending up to $305,000 toward construction of a parallel taxiway at Belfast Municipal Airport. The amount represents the city's 5-percent share of the mostly federally funded $6.1 million project.

• Approved a union contract with Council 93 AFSME that covers 16 Public Works, Wastewater and Transfer Station employees. The three-year agreement gives a 60-cent-per-hour raise to all employees in the first year based on findings that Belfast employee were paid less than their counterparts in similar municipalities around the state. The new contract gives 2-percent cost-of-living increases in the second and third years.

• Promoted Belfast Police Department reserve officer Michael Boucher to full-time officer.

• Awarded a $3,200 contract to Johnson's Arboriculture to prune and install cables on a 150-year-old sugar maple at 220 Main St. The owner of the adjacent property had asked the city to remove the tree, but councilors opted to save it after getting advice that it was in good condition with the exception of some deadwood that could be removed.

• Amended the city's shoreland zoning ordinance to allow the Young family to build a hair salon on the site of a former Young's Lobster Pound storage shed.

• Held an executive session on an economic development matter. The council held three closed door sessions on economic development at its two previous meetings. City Manager Joe Slocum said he couldn't recall which, if any, of those were related to the Aug. 15 session but said the latest was an ongoing topic of discussion.

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