PORTSMOUTH – City councilors are considering a ban on single-use plastics and Styrofoam.
The ban on cups and food containers made of polystyrene, which is commonly known as Styrofoam, will be citywide if Councilor Josh Denton’s proposed ordinance is passed.
The ban on single-use plastic bags, cups and containers would be applicable on city-owned property and during city-sponsored events. That means any new businesses moving into the Thomas J. McIntyre Federal Building and people conducting business at Prescott Park would have to abide by the new local law if it passes.
The ban on non-compostable plastics would also apply during First Night and Market Square Day.
Under Denton’s proposal, plastic straws would not be banned, but customers would have to ask for one during city sponsored events or from people conducting business on city land.
The school system in Portsmouth would be affected during extracurricular activities, which has raised some concerns because many items are donated for fundraising efforts, but Denton said the younger generation understands the need to cut down on items that typically end up in landfills.
“The younger generation gets this and gets why it’s important, and I’d like to see Portsmouth lead the way with this,” Denton said on Wednesday.
Mayor Jack Blalock is the owner of Old Ferry Landing and said a citywide ban on Styrofoam would not likely affect many restaurants, as many people have already switched to compostable products in recent years because the prices for them has dropped.
“Most compostable products are much less now and there is not much of a difference between compostables and Styrofoam,” Blalock said.
Blalock said instead of an ordinance that has to be enforced, the city council may choose to adopt Denton’s proposal as a policy.
City Councilor Rick Becksted expressed his concerns about the cost of enforcement an ordinance during their public meeting on Tuesday night. He wanted to know how much it will cost officials to enforce an ordinance.
City Attorney Robert Sullivan also has his reservations about Denton’s proposal. He says a citywide ban on Styrofoam products could be problematic because there is no specific state authority on the topic.
“Some lawyers will say without that authority, the city does not have the ability to regulate Styrofoam containers and Styrofoam cups. There will be reputable lawyers who will say the opposite, that there is such authority found in the solid waste statutes of the state,” Sullivan told the council.
There will be a public hearing on the proposed ordinance on Sept. 16 in city council chambers. The city council meeting starts at 7 p.m.
Maine, which is just across the river from Portsmouth, was the first state to ban Styrofoam food containers earlier this year. It was the fourth state to ban single-use plastic bags.