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Plastic bags can be found stuck in the trees near Prescott Park in Portsmouth. Some local residents want to see the bags banned. Others say they are put to good use. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Correspondent)

Portsmouth delays decision on banning single-use bags


PORTSMOUTH — The city council tabled until March 20 an ordinance that would force stores to restrict the distribution of single-use plastic bags.

Portsmouth has been considering the prospect for two years.

Under the current proposed ordinance, no stores could use single-use bags unless take-out food or liquids are being purchased. Stores would instead charge 10 cents per paper bag. Stores that violate the ordinance would be subject to $100 fines.

During public comments at the city council meeting, resident Erik Anderson said banning plastic bags would amount to the council making a social decision for the public. He said he has talked with grocery store employees who told him 80 percent of people use single-use plastic bags.

Resident Jeff Semprini said people reuse the bags they get at grocery stores for cat litter and dog feces. At his daughter’s daycare, clothes that get dirty are transported home in plastic bags.

Semprini said there are other options to make sure unused single-use bags are properly disposed of.

“I think we have a great recycling program in the city,” Semprini said.

Prior to Monday night’s meeting, Assistant Mayor James Splaine said he is concerned about the harm plastic bags can do to wildlife.

“They eat it, they strangle on it,” Splaine said. “They suffocate. They are negatively impacted by it.”

Splaine said that reusable plastic bags would not be banned, just single-use bags, which can easily blow into the woods and waterways.

Splaine said he has visited Market Basket and Shaw’s in Portsmouth, the two places most affected by the potential restriction. Even though employees try to make sure their area is clean, the bags are blown into nearby wooded areas, he said.

On Monday afternoon, Portsmouth resident Roland Duprey said he supports the measure because it would reduce the amount of litter on roadways and in waterways.

“It’s a nightmare if you ask me,” Duprey said. “What’s a bird going to do if a bag wraps around its beak? They’re doomed.”

Terry Young of Hampton agreed, and said he supports measures that reduce the use of single-use bags.

“I’m OK if they go away,” Young said.