BATH — The City Council unanimously passed two separate ordinances tackling single-use plastic bag and polystyrene foam bans Wednesday night, joining several other towns in Maine in the effort to curtail the use of the products.

The single-use plastic bag ban would prevent any merchant in the city from using the bags at point of sale, and also adds a fee to all paper bags. A second ordinance, banning the use of polystyrene foam at retail food vendors and food packagers, was also passed.

The two unanimous votes were the final time the council had to vote on the issue. Both ordinances will go into affect on April 22, 2018, which is also Earth Day.

Lee Leiner, director of public works for the city, said the ban is intended to reduce pollution and “return to a culture of sustainability.”

While Bath’s foam ban is similar to Freeport, Brunswick and Topsham’s, the city’s paper bag fee is unique. In Bath, paper bags will initially face a 5 cent fee, which escalates year-over-year until it’s 15 cents from the third year forward. That proposal makes Bath the first community in the state to place an escalating fee on paper bags.

Leiner said at earlier meetings – including a previous public hearing Oct. 4 – that the escalating fee is intended to discourage the use of paper over plastic, as paper bags require more carbon emissions to produce and transport and also have negative environmental impacts. The fee would serve as a reminder to bring reusable bags.

Plastic bags in and of themselves are not entirely banned, as reusable plastic bags are allowed. In order to qualify, the bags must meet minimum thickness requirements and be capable of carrying 18 pounds.

Temporary establishments, such as vendors at Bath’s popular Heritage Days event, flea markets or craft fairs, would be exempt from the bans.

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