Following Tuesday's Town Meeting, Falmouth became the second town on Cape Cod to ban single-use plastic bags. Only five other Massachusetts towns including Provincetown have banned plastic bags.
Tucked in a rather hefty warrant of 42 articles, Article 31 called for the prohibition of plastic bags. With a quorum present, the majority voted that the content of Article 31 be inserted into the town's general bylaws.
Falmouth will go about phasing out single-use plastic bags (integrated handled bags with a thickness of less than 2.5 mils) within 18 months of the effective date of the bylaw.
According to Article 31, this pertains to all bags used by retail stores and restaurants within town limits. Customers are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags when shopping. Retail stores and restaurants will also have the option of offering their customers reusable or paper bags at no charge or at "a reasonable free for each paper or other bag, as they desire."
The bylaw will be enforceable by Falmouth police officers or enforcement agents of the Falmouth Board of Health. Fines of $50 (first offense), $100 (second offense) and $200 (third and subsequent offense) will also be implemented.
Retail stores and restaurants must phase out current stock and any stock that remains after 18 months must be disposed of properly. Other plastic bags including those without handles used for dry cleaning, newspapers, produce, meat, bulk foods and wet items are exempt from the bylaw.
The banning of plastic bags is intended to decrease the impact such bags have on the environment and the threat they impose to animals on land and at sea. When not properly disposed of plastic bags can injure or kill animals. The discarded bags, according to LA City Bag, resemble jellyfish in the water and can be mistaken for food by turtles, seabirds and other fish. Plastic bags can also clog storm drains and burden the town's solid waste collection, according to Article 31.
Following their October special town meeting, Provincetown became the first Cape town to ban the bags. Their ban will go into effect in April 2015. The Island of Nantucket was way ahead of the curve, banning plastic bags in 1990. The state of California has the most municipalities with plastic bag bans by far, according to the website Californians Against Waste.
According to the Massachusetts Ban Plastic Bags website, only 5.2% of plastic bags are recycled.