Single-use plastic ban sought in Manchester

MANCHESTER — Local environmental activist group Earth Matters says it is pursuing a ban of single-use plastic bags, water bottles and straws in Manchester.

Group members will be at the Manchester Street Fest, July 20 from 6 to 9 p.m., to talk to the public and seek signatures on petitions calling for the ban of single-use plastics here and around the world.

Anne D'Olivo of Earth Matters said the group has been in contact with officials and activists in Brattleboro, which passed a ban on single-use plastic bags last year. That law, which was approved by the Brattleboro Select Board in March 2017 and took effect July 1, specifically bans thin-film single-use plastic bags, which have a thickness of less than 2.25 millimeters and are intended for transporting purchased products one time.

"For now, our focus is on banning single-use plastic bags. We will specify the thickness of the plastic bag in the ordinance to cover most carrier bags, but not the larger, thicker tote bags. The thickness has yet to be decided," she said. "We encourage the public to bring their own cloth bags when shopping at any store."

Earth Matters presented its intentions to the Manchester Conservation Commission at the commission's most recent meeting. The commission discussed the concept, but took no formal action to endorse the plan ,according to member Alan Benoit.

"We encouraged them to create the proposal and to pursue that work," Benoit told the Journal. "We suggested they create the wording and what products would be included, but so far, we have not seen or heard just what they decided on."

Members of the Manchester Select Board said Tuesday they'd be happy to hear out the group's proposal. Board Chair Ivan C. Beattie and board member Steve Nichols said it sounded like an interesting idea on the surface, but reserved judgment until they hear the details of how such a ban would work.

"I'd have to see the logistical part of it," Nichols said.

"If they went to [Town Manager John O'Keefe] to get on the agenda, we've heard other groups, and I don't think there's any reason we wouldn't hear them as well," board member Greg Cutler added.

A number of local businesses already promote the re-use of bags and containers, and some eateries use compostable cups, utensils, straws and containers for take-out orders. Students at Manchester Elementary-Middle School and patrons of Manchester Community Library are welcome to use water bottle refilling stations.

The Brattleboro ordinance applies bags thinner than 2.25 mils. (One mil is a measurement unit that equals 0.001 inch.) It exempts thin-film plastic bags used for holding dry cleaning, newspapers, produce, meat, bulk foods, wet items and similar merchandise, as well as flexible transparent plastic for covering raw meat, poultry, raw fish, hard cheese, cold cuts, fruit, vegetable products, baked goods and bread.

To help popularize the program and encourage compliance, the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance has a "bag share" program, in which customers may take a free cotton bag for use and then leave it behind for someone else later. That program was developed in conjunction with 350 Vermont.

Enforcement of the Brattleboro fan falls to the town manager's office. After a first and second warning within a year, fines include $50 for the first offense with a waiver fee of $25, and $100, or a $50 waiver fee, for the second and all other offenses. A retail establishment cannot be penalized more than once within 24 hours.

In nearby Berkshire County, Mass., the towns of Williamstown, Adams, Lenox and Lee have all enacted plastic bag bans. Pittsfield, the county's largest city, has been studying the measure in committee for several months.

Monday, national coffee retailer Starbucks announced it would phase out plastic straws from all of its outlets by 2020.

Those seeking additional information are asked to visit the calendar page, the MoveOn Manchester Facebook page, or contact Anne D'Olivo at


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