Cape Elizabeth joins shift to bag fee, foam ban

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council on Monday enacted a ban on polystyrene foam containers and instituted a fee for single-use carryout bags at food stores.

The regulations, which will take effect next month, mirror those implemented in Portland and South Portland.   

Councilors Penelope Jordan, of Jordan’s Farm, and Caitlin Jordan, of Alewive’s Brook Farm, recused themselves from the discussion because they sell food products at both of their businesses. 

The Recycling Committee considered recommending a fee for bags at all retail stores, but opted not to after consulting businesses that would be affected.  

The council voted 4-1 to implement the 5-cent fee. A charge for single-use plastic and paper carryout bags would apply to all food stores in town, excluding restaurants.

Councilor Jessica Sullivan, who successfully moved to have the foam ban and bag fee considered independently of each other, opposed the decision, calling it “Draconian.” 

She said she would prefer to see educational outreach on the effect of plastic waste on the environment, and signs at stores asking residents to carry reusable bags. 

“In theory and its intent, I support it,” Sullivan said. “But Cape Elizabeth is a very small town … we don’t have the volume (that other towns with fees do) … I do not want to inconvenience or upset folks who have forgotten.”

Councilor Sara Lennon countered that the charge will be effective. 

“The smallest financial incentive can and does change behavior,” Lennon said. “I think many people are used to (paying the fee) now.”

The polystyrene foam ban in all food stores – except for perishable food shipments and in an emergency – was unanimously approved.

According to a memo to councilors from Town Planner Maureen O’Meara, polystyrene foam is composed of styrene and benzene – both carcinogenic – and pollutes the environment by breaking into small balls that are transported by the wind and difficult to pick up. 

Both amendments will go into effect on Dec. 6, 30 days after the council’s approval.

Town Manager Matthew Sturgis said he believes the Recycling Committee will be reaching out to local businesses that will be impacted by the fee to make them aware of the change. 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.