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Hearing Nov. 6 on single-use bag fees, ban on polystyrene foam

The Town Council will hold a public hearing on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017 on a proposal to require establishments that sell food in Cape Elizabeth to charge five cents for carry-out paper and plastic bags.

The proposal is similar to the single-use bag regulations in Portland and South Portland. The update to the town's Health and Sanitation Ordinance would also prohibit use of polystyrene foam food containers in most circumstances.

Councilors sent the proposal back to committee in September after Penny Jordan and Caitlin Jordan, two councilors recused from voting because of their affiliation with farm stands, asked why the proposal only applies to food. [news article]

The draft up for public hearing, however, applies only to food stores. "Part of what we are trying to accomplish is to instill new habits where people bring reusable bags for their shopping," said Kara Lavendar Law, head of the Recycling Committee charged with developing the draft bag-ordinance. "Surrounding communities do have these ordinances for food stores (and) many of us have already developed those habits, but we may not have developed habits for places that we visit only on occasion," she said.

Among businesses the committee polled, some non-food vendors feared the proposal might create ill will for customers not expecting a bag charge, Law said. "That's in contrast to the food retailers, who were by-and-large very supportive of both of the proposed amendments," she said.

The ordinance meets a 2016 council goal to consider banning all single-use plastic bags in retail establishments.

The November council meeting, normally held on the second Monday, was rescheduled to Nov. 6 to accommodate the Veteran's Day holiday.