The Falmouth Town Council may soon consider a ban on single-use plastic bags by large retailers, a first of its kind in Maine. This is not good public policy. Aside from being a well-intended but intrusive political statement, banning single-use plastic bags doesn’t really solve any measurable problem in our town. Though the volunteer committee that has proposed the ban estimates 2 million bags are used annually in Falmouth, their evidence of 72 discarded bags along a one-mile stretch of road is not a crisis requiring a one-of-a-kind ban that inconveniences consumers.
Of more than 19,400 municipalities in the entire country, only 80 have banned plastic bags and only 150 regulate their use. That said, in the city of Chicago, both an environmental advocacy group (Bring Your Bag Chicago) and an industry group (American Progressive Bag Alliance) urged the repeal of the city’s plastic bag ban as they determined a ban would actually add more material to the waste stream and use more energy. The city of Dallas repealed its 5-cent bag fee due to a lawsuit and a burden on retailers.
Falmouth taxpayers have just invested more than $12 million to upgrade its retail district to attract businesses and encourage others to grow. What kind of a message does a bag ban send to retailers considering where to locate or expand? Let’s use some common sense and encourage investment.
And, if the council really feels compelled to do something, the question ought to be sent to referendum.