Businesses quiet on Brunswick foam ban

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BRUNSWICK — As a March 21 public hearing on a proposed polystyrene foam ban approaches, not much opposition from businesses that would be affected by the ordinance has showed up.

At a March 3 meeting at the town offices meant to give information on the ban to local businesses – the third and final of such events – only one Brunswick business owner made an appearance.

Becky Shepherd, owner of Wild Oats Bakery and Cafe on Maine Street, said she has supported the ban since it was first proposed in October.

Shepherd said at the meeting that she has never used polystyrene foam packaging – more commonly known by the name “Styrofoam,” a popular trademarked brand of extruded polystyrene foam – in her cafe.

“You don’t have to use it,” she said. The extra costs of alternative paper or plastic packaging, she added, “doesn’t outweigh the impact that (polystyrene) does to the environment.”

The new ordinance, if passed, would ban the use of polystyrene containers for packaging food at grocery stores, coffee shops and restaurants. It would not apply to food that comes pre-packaged in polystyrene, or for the packaging for seafood.

Linda Smith, the town’s business development manager, said all the informational meetings she organized on the proposed ordinance have been sparsely attended.

The first meeting, which was advertised to local businesses by direct mail and email, was only attended by representatives from the Great Impasta on Maine Street and Wild Oats.

Only Wild Oats attended the second meeting, which was similarly advertised, as well as the third, on March 3.

Smith did say she had received calls from representatives at the Big Apple convenience store and Henry and Marty’s Restaurant, saying they were both “OK” with the proposed ban.

“This just doesn’t feel like it’s a big controversial issue for people at this point,” Smith said.

Smith did add that she received notification from the Maine Grocers and Food Producers, a trade association, that they would be sending a letter to the town in opposition.

In an interview Monday, Hannaford Supermarkets spokesman Eric Blom said the company has successfully adapted to similar ordinances in Portland and South Portland.

He said Hannaford is neither for nor against the proposals. Practically, he added,”Alternative packaging is more expensive, and it does have different qualities … (but) we’ve found ways to make it work.”

Mike DaRosa, owner of the Dunkin’ Donuts on Pleasant Street, had a similar message.

If the measure passes, “obviously we’re going to comply,” he said in his store on Monday.

He pointed to the examples of Dunkin’ Donuts stores in Freeport, where a foam ban has been in place since 1990. Stores there use paper cups.

As for the Brunswick proposal itself, “I’d say we’re neutral on it,” he said.

At the March 3 meeting, Punnie Edgerton, who is involved with Bring Your Own Bag – Midcoast, who brought the measure to the council, said she expects “a couple restaurant owners” to speak in opposition at the March 21 public hearing.

“They will probably say, ‘We can’t afford this,'” she said.

She lamented that more business owners have not attended the informational meetings.

“Those are the people I wish I could have talked to one-on-one,” she said.

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

Brunswick Business Development Manager Linda Smith prepared examples of alternative packaging to polystyrene for a March 3 business meeting; only one local business owner showed.

Despite the foam cup logo, Dunkin’ Donuts on Pleasant Street, and other local businesses in Brunswick, would have to stop serving polystyrene foam containers if a new ordinance passes March 21.

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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.