Cape residents voice opposition to pay-per-bag trash disposal

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CAPE ELIZABETH — A dozen residents spoke against a proposed pay-per-bag waste disposal system at a public hearing on Monday, Sept. 13.

Inconvenience, unfair costs and disguised taxes were mentioned as reasons they oppose the proposal.

In creating goals for 2010, the Town Council planned to consider a pay-per-bag system of waste disposal as a way to generate revenue outside of property taxes. Councilors have been gathering information since January and held two workshop sessions with the Recycling Committee to discuss the proposal.

After hearing the comments on Monday, Chairwoman Anne Swift-Kayatta said a decision on the proposal will not be made quickly, although the council will likely come to a consensus at its Nov. 1 workshop.

“I want to allay anyone’s concerns,” Swift-Kayatta said. “Speaking only for myself, I don’t sense that there is any great impetus on the council to decide anything on this in the next few months. Don’t be fearful that next week you are going to read that suddenly there will be pay-per-bag.”

Elizabeth Scifres of Longfellow Drive said the system unfairly targets families with young children.

“We recycle everything we possibly can,” she said. “We compost, we recycle, but I have babies and babies wear diapers and diapers are not recyclable.”

She also said the system unfairly targets residents who cannot afford the additional household cost of garbage bags.

“I’d love to see more education and more structure at the (trash) hoppers,” she said. “I do urge the council to rethink this position, and look at alternate ways … to decrease costs at the dump.”

Richard Berman of Hannaford Cove Road also spoke against the proposal and said it could be a great fix if the system would reduce property taxes. But he said the proposal is starting to “look, feel and smell like a hidden tax.”

Bruce Greenwood of Hunts Point Road said the state is trying to position itself as a leader in green economy, but for towns to encourage residents to buy plastic disposal bags to “preserve their trash for generations to come” does not align well with green practices. He said a curbside recycling program would promote a more environmentally friendly way to encourage recycling and waste reduction.

“Instead of copycatting other towns, why don’t we be a leader on this issue, and become a green town,” he said. “Really educate from the bottom up and be the green leader in southern Maine.”

Councilor David Sherman noted the volume of e-mails councilors have received and public comments they’ve heard about pay-per-bag, and didn’t seem optimistic about its adoption.

“I have a feeling we’re going to be taking to heart a lot of the comments. I’ve heard a lot of good ones tonight,” he said. “Pay-per-throw may not be the center of our environmental stewardship plan, but we’ll hopefully pursue other things as well.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or