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Ban on plastic bags, delayed by pandemic, goes into effect on July 1

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Eva Reck loads groceries into her car in Hannaford near the Maine Mall in South Portland on Thursday. Reck, who is originally from Sweden and now lives in Cape Elizabeth, said she believes the ban on plastic bags is a good thing and that her home country banned them some time ago. Brianna Soukup / Staff Photographer

Doreen Heller said she supports the environmental goals behind the state’s upcoming ban on plastic shopping bags, even if that means finding another source of liners for her bathroom bins.

Heller, who lives in Scarborough, said she would likely bring her own reusable bags to the grocery store, a practice she followed until the COVID-19 pandemic led stores to ask customers to s ” refrain from using these bags for fear that it could spread the coronavirus.

“I used to use them, and then they said, ‘Don’t bring them’, and I didn’t put them back in the car,” she said.

The state ban takes effect July 1, after which most retailers will no longer be able to wrap customer purchases in those ubiquitous thin plastic bags. Customers will either need to bring their own reusable bags, opt for paper bags for which they will pay a mandatory 5-cent fee, or go without bags altogether.

The ban on single-use plastic bags was passed by lawmakers in 2019, designed to ease the flow of waste and reduce the number of fragile plastic bags stuck in trees and floating along state roads. But the measure has remained on the launch pad longer than most laws, it was originally designed to take effect in April 2020, but has been delayed by fears that reusable bags could carry and spread the virus.

Then it was supposed to go into effect early this year, but was again delayed after concerns were raised that alternative supplies may have been disrupted by the pandemic. But the date of July 1, 2021 is now set in stone, state officials have said.

Grocery stores and other retailers have prepared for the new law by posting signs alerting shoppers of the coming change in less than two weeks.

Hannaford stores will offer customers the option of using paper bags, spokesman Eric Blom said. The state charges a minimum charge of 5 cents for each paper bag, he said, and that is what Hannaford will charge its customers.

Signs posted around stores also encourage the use of reusable bags, Blom said, and Hannaford will sell “cause bags,” with $ 1 for each reusable bag purchased intended to support the fight against hunger or local charities. .

The statewide ban will replace local laws that aimed to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags. A dozen cities across the state have passed bans or per-bag fees to discourage bag use over the past decade, but supporters of a statewide ban have said a more holistic approach is needed to reduce the amount of plastic. waste going to landfills or becoming rubbish.

Plastic bags don’t break down, but they do tear into small pieces that pollute the land and water. Americans use an average of one bag per day, and the country is estimated to have generated 9 billion pounds of plastic film, bag and packaging waste in 2018.

Maine’s ban is not exhaustive. Stores can still provide plastic bags to shoppers who buy unpackaged items, such as fresh produce, cold cuts, or baked goods, while they are still in the store, although these retailers will need to provide a point deposit for recycling plastic bags.

Stewart Young, who was at the Hannaford store near Maine Mall on Thursday, is not looking forward to the plastic bag ban. Brianna Soukup / Staff Photographer

Restaurants and small retailers that only have minuscule food sales can waive the per-bag nickel fee on paper bags, although they still need to eliminate the use of single-use plastic take-out bags. .

Customers like Heller were mostly okay with the change, although for many the plastic bags were not single-use. After taking their groceries home, many have a short second life as cleaning bags after pets or as a liner for small trash cans.

Eva Reck from Scarborough said she had to adapt to bags after moving to Cape Elizabeth from Sweden, where the use of plastic bags was banned.

“We’re a bit behind on this here,” she said. Like many others, she uses the grocery bags to clean up after her dogs.

But at least a few shoppers are tired of having to ride the wave of changes in old habits, even if it’s for a good cause.

“It’s always something,” said Stuart Young of South Portland, putting a plastic bag of groceries in his car. “They are always trying to change something.”


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