, Salem, MA


January 29, 2014

Marblehead plastic, foam ban could be a mixed bag, businesses say

MARBLEHEAD — Like many other restaurants, Tony’s Pizza on School Street uses plastic foam containers for its takeout.

Owner Patricia Brogna has priced out other options for takeout containers but said they are much more expensive. Now she finds herself questioning the proposed bans in town on thin-film plastic bags and foam cups and takeout containers, saying they will drive up costs — and she’s not alone.

“It is just going to be another burden on small businesses,” Brogna said. “... That cost will have to be passed along to the customers.”

The Board of Health voted last week to bring the two bans to Town Meeting in May. The board cited waste reduction efforts and impacts on the environment as a reason for proposing the bans.

The two separate proposals would not go into effect until sometime next year if approved at Town Meeting in May.

Plastic bag bans have been enacted in several Massachusetts towns and cities, including Manchester-by-the-Sea and Nantucket. Plastic foam has been banned in Amherst and Somerville. Both are banned in Brookline and Great Barrington.

The proposed Marblehead ban states that the plastic bags typically found in grocery and convenience stores, often referred to as single-use bags, can harm oceans and marine life, clog storm drains, and create a burden for solid waste and recycling centers. The ban would include any bag less than 3.0 mils thick, which is the approximate thickness of a heavy-duty contractor trash bag. Besides grocery checkout bags, some gift store bags would be banned, according to Andrew Petty, director of public health.

“The real sturdy gift bags that people can reuse will not be banned,” he said. The bags must meet the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Plastic foam containers are not biodegradable, and “once buried in a landfill, they will remain for centuries,” according to the draft bylaw. While such foam can be recycled, most companies won’t take it, Petty said.

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