South Portland on its own regarding plastic-bag ban

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The city will continue to explore its own effort to curb the use of plastic or paper bags and polystyrene food containers, after a failed attempt at a regional solution.

The decision came after officials met with the Greater Portland Council of Governments earlier this month and representatives from six other municipalities.

The possibility of an ordinance similar to Portland’s, which restricts the products’ use and went into effect in April, stems from preliminary discussion among members of the Energy and Recycling Committee and Sustainability Coordinator Julie Rosenbach. City councilors and City Manager Jim Gailey have also expressed support for conducting research on the issue. 

Several towns in greater Portland have begun research or are in the process of implementing ordinances to enforce single-use bags and ban polystyrene, including Freeport, Topsham, Brunswick and Falmouth.

Collaboration with GPCOG was intended to see if the effort could be cohesive and establish a “model ordinance” that could be tailored to each community, Gailey said Wednesday.

Rosenbach, who was hired in February, said she had hoped South Portland could pursue this issue from “more of a regional approach. I think that’s really where we should end up.”

Gailey said the city has been holding off on forging ahead independently, “hoping that GPCOG was going to assemble a number of communities (who are) studying the same thing.”

Gailey and Rosenbach, through the Council of Governments, had been working with representatives from Brunswick, Topsham, York, Falmouth, Portland and Freeport.

In the end, Gailey said, “it just seems as though everyone was in a different spot.” 

Many are farther down the road than South Portland, Rosenbach said.

“I think maybe they were sort of of reticent to say, ‘Oh, well let’s change our process now,'” she said.

Gailey said it “was kind of disappointing. I think a lot of people are entrenched and have gone so far, they’re unwilling to unwind it a little bit.”

He said he was also disappointed at the number of greater Portland communities that weren’t interested in the issue.

“I was hoping this was going to be a model for greater Portland, even though it’s not looking that way,” Gailey said. 

The next immediate steps are not yet clear. “That’s on my to-do list,” said Rosenbach.

August is the earliest that the  issue can be placed on a City Council workshop agenda for discussion.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.