As a resident with great appreciation of Topsham, and executive director of the Retail Association of Maine, I am frustrated with BYOB-Midcoast’s proposed 5-cent tax on plastic bags in Brunswick and Topsham. It is difficult to understand why we would place restrictions on a 100 percent recyclable, reusable, American-made product that is the most environmentally friendly bagging option.
There are several issues with BYOB’s arguments. Contrary to their beliefs, plastic bag and film recycling is one of the fastest growing segments of the recycling industry. Even though more than 90 percent of Americans reuse their plastic bags, more than 1.17 billion pounds of bags and film were recycled through retail drop-off locations in 2014 alone. In fact, seven in-store recycling drop-off points are conveniently located within 10 miles of Topsham at stores such as Hannaford, Lowe’s and Target.
Second, the notion that plastics are the most numerous pieces of trash found in our oceans and beaches is simply not true. According to the 2015 Ocean Conservancy Report, of the more than 33,000 items collected from Maine’s waters, less than 1 percent were plastic bags.
Finally, there is no evidence to support the claim that bans and taxes have any real environmental effect. For example, a Washington Post investigation found that Washington, D.C., collected roughly $10 million since 2010 from its 10-cent bag tax – without making any environmental progress.
What Topsham and communities around the country should focus on is recycling. We can and ought to be working together to find better recycling-based solutions. That is the path best for the residents of Maine.