Published On: Mon, Aug 22nd, 2016

Bourne Board Of Health Still Not In Favor Of Plastic Bag Ban

Bourne Board of Health has reaffirmed its opposition to a proposed ban on two-handled plastic grocery bags. At its meeting Wednesday evening, August 17, the board again stated its opposition to instituting such a ban.

Board members said it would be too difficult to police the measure. However, they were more adamant in their position that they should not ban just the two-handled bags, but all types of plastic bags.

Plastic Recycling

Bourne Board Of Health Still Not In Favor Of Plastic Bag Ban

“We have to be consistent. We can’t deviate and say, ‘This plastic bag is going to be a health issue, but the other plastic bag isn’t.’ Either they all are, or they all aren’t,” board member Galon L. (Skip) Barlow said.

The proposed ban was presented to the board by members of the Bourne Recycling Committee. As presented, the ban would apply to “single-use plastic bags,” which are defined as “bags made of plastic, with integral handles, and thickness less than 3 mils.” The proposal further stipulates that thin-film plastic bags used to contain dry cleaning, newspapers, produce, meat, bulk foods, wet items and other similar merchandise, typically without handles, are exempt.

Committee chairman Heather A.M. DiPaolo said that the group has been working on developing this proposal for more than a year, and plans to present an article on the warrant for October’s Special Town Meeting. Ms. DiPaolo said that members of the recycling committee believe that plastic bags are a serious environmental concern and a health concern.

“They are useful for about five minutes, and then for the next thousand years-plus, they just continue to break down,” she said.

Ms. DiPaolo said that members of the committee visited the EL Harvey & Sons recycling center in Westboro, where Bourne sends its recyclables. She said they were told that plastic bags included in recycling shipments are a major nuisance because they clog up machinery and can halt processing up to five times a day.

She noted that many towns on the Cape have already instituted plastic bag bans, the most recent being Falmouth. Nantucket has had such a ban in effect since 1990, and other towns with bans include Harwich, Wellfleet, Barnstable, Truro and six towns on Martha’s Vineyard. Towns that are considering bans include Plymouth, Mashpee, Sandwich and Yarmouth, she said. She said that many grocery stores in the area have expressed enthusiasm for the ban.

“It’s a now thing; it’s happening. And we want to jump on board,” she said.

Board member Kelly A. Mastria said that the idea is a good one, and the recycling committee has to start somewhere if they want to effect a change. However, the board of health cannot discriminate in deciding what can and cannot be used, Ms. Mastria said.

“Our job is to make sure there’s equity,” she said.

Suggestions that plastic bags are not recyclable or prove to be problematic for recycling companies were refuted by Paula Cote, an accounts manager with Seaside Wine & Spirits in Pocasset. Ms. Cote said that her store uses the two-handled bags for customers, and she agreed with the board that there are all types of plastic bags, such as zip-lock sandwich bags, or cereal box inner bags, that would have to be included in any ban. She added that coffee shops like Dunkin’ Donuts use Styrofoam cups to serve customers. The town does not take Styrofoam for recycling, and the cups wind up scattered around town, she said.

“How is that any different from plastic bags?” she said.

Ms. Cote also read from information she found online about recycling measures implemented in New York City. The research she found said it was a myth that plastic bags are not recyclable and that they have a tendency to jam recycling equipment.

“Fact. Plastic bags are 100 percent recyclable, and the industry has created more than 30,000 retailer drop-off points to make plastic bags’ recycling as easy as possible for consumers,” she said.

Integrated Solid Waste Management general manager Daniel T. Barrett said he has worked in the waste and recycling industry for 30 years. His experience tells him that plastic bags are a bad thing and they do clog recycling equipment. Mr. Barrett said that the aim of the recycling committee is to get at one of the biggest facets of the plastic bag problem—grocery bags—and address other items down the road.

“These guys are just trying to find a broad brush to get something going in town here,” he said.

Board chairman Kathleen M. Peterson remained steadfast in her belief that any ban would have to include every type of plastic bag. Ms. Peterson also said that policing the bylaw would be virtually impossible, and the town health department does not have the time and/or resources to expend on making sure that stores are compliant. She suggested that members of the recycling committee come before the board with an update at its next meeting on Wednesday, September 14.