Brunswick bans foam food packaging starting Oct. 1

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved a ban on polystyrene foam packaging, making Brunswick the fourth community in the region to prohibit most food retailers from using the material.

The vote reflected a public hearing and process virtually devoid of opposition.

“The expression in support of this ban has been so overwhelming,” Councilor Dan Harris said before the vote.

Brunswick follows Freeport, Portland and South Portland in banning the foam packaging.

Starting Oct. 1, the new ordinance bans the use of polystyrene containers for packaging food at grocery stores, coffee shops and restaurants. It does not apply to food that comes pre-packaged in polystyrene, or packaging for seafood.

At a public hearing Monday, Brunswick residents and out-of-town supporters packed council chambers until it was standing room only. Thirteen people spoke in favor of the ban.

“(It’s) very simple to me,” said Lorel Nazzaro, of Pennell Way. “It would be highly irresponsible … not to adopt a ban.”

Alwyn Ecker, of Simpson’s Point Road, and a senior at Waynflete School in Portland, brought a garbage bag filled with foam cups, containers and scraps to the podium. She said she collected the garbage in “about an hour” the day before on the banks of the Androscoggin River, just below the Brunswick-Topsham bridge.

“There are thousands (of miles) of shoreline and tidal river” in Maine, Ecker said. “I hope we can do something about this.”

Marcia Harrington, one of the lead organizers of the group Bring Your Own Bag – Midcoast, which proposed the foam ban last October, said that when people see litter, “no one thinks it’s (theirs). But obviously, it’s someone’s.”

One person spoke against the proposed ordinance. Jim Trusiani, a former Topsham selectman, said the ban is hypocritical because “you as a municipality don’t follow it.”

Pointing to a TV on a nearby wall, he argued that it probably came in foam packaging when the town bought it. “(So) don’t pick on retailers … pick on yourselves,” he said.

But Council Chairwoman Sarah Brayman noted there had been very little opposition from businesses.

In three information sessions hosted by the town for affected local businesses, no business representatives showed up – other than Wild Oats owner Becky Shepherd, an advocate of the ban.

Councilor Suzan Wilson, who pushed to have those meetings organized, said she had a message for the “complainers” who “chose not to come.”

“I’m very sorry because I will be supporting this ban,” she said.

After the meeting, BYOB co-founder Marcia Harrington said her group publicized the public hearing and encouraged people to show up through “individual emails, calls, or conversations,”

She also said the Natural Resources Council of Maine sent out an email blast to its Brunswick members.

The foam ban was originally pitched at a BYOB press conference in October as part of a broader effort, including a proposed 5-cent fee on single-use shopping bags.

The two initiatives were separated after Brunswick councilors questioned the bag fee. BYOB organizers and members of the Recycling and Sustainability Committee decided to move first on the foam ban.

Harrington said the group’s next step will be organizing a workshop with the council, after budget season, to discuss the bag fee.

“We want to use the goodwill from last night to try to get a workshop as soon as possible,” she said.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or wwuthmann@theforecaster.net. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Alwyn Ecker, 18, of Simpson’s Point Road, Brunswick, collected litter along the Androscoggin River to bring to a March 21 public hearing where the Town Council enacted a ban on the use of foam food packaging.

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Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.
  • Chew H Bird

    One more piece of unfriendly and useless regulations by the anti-business crowd in Brunswick. Why not pick on retailers as they are the ones who produce the largest volume of non-recyclable packaging? Why not go after the most environmentally abusive rather than line the pockets of food retailers by giving away nickels? Last I heard we have budget issues in Brunswick and my taxes go up annually… Why does our town decide to charge a nickel a bag when they should have selected a recycling contractor who can recycle the bags? This is absolute incompetence and pandering by the town counsil.

  • Scott Harriman

    One person spoke against the proposed ordinance. Jim Trusiani, a former Topsham selectman, said the ban is hypocritical because “you as a municipality don’t follow it.”

    Pointing to a TV on a nearby wall, he argued that it probably came in foam packaging when the town bought it. “(So) don’t pick on retailers … pick on yourselves,” he said.

    The ban applies to food packaged locally, not televisions.