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Group to start exploring ban on foam containers, limits on plastic bags

A group tasked with developing an ordinance that will eliminate polystyrene containers and reduce the use of plastic bags is readying to starts its work.
On Monday, the Green Packaging Working Group will hold its first meeting after being created by the City Council ... to draft language for an ordinance regarding polystyrene foam containers and plastic bags. The group is made up of representatives from Environment Maine, the Maine Grocers Association, the Maine Restaurant Association, the Maine Audubon Society, business owners and residents, according to a press release.
"As we look at ways to improve the environment and reduce waste in Portland, we need to embrace some common sense solutions" said Councilor Ed Suslovic, who will be the chairman of the group, in a statement. "Polystyrene doesn't biodegrade, is virtually impossible to recycle, and has been identified by health experts as a carcinogen. It's time we work together to craft a policy that eliminates the risks associated with this product in a way that maintains the public health and minimizes the impact on local businesses."
The prospective ban on polystyrene products and limitation on plastic bags was partly inspired by the Portland School System's initiative to eliminate non-recyclable foam products.
The Portland Public School System launched a recycling and composting initiative this year with the goal to completely separate out cafeteria waste by September 2012. The district aims to reduce trash by 50 to 80 percent, according to a press release, and save about $50,000 on trash hauling.
When the council first considered looking at a ban on polystyrene containers, a similar ban that Freeport enacted in 1990 was cited as a possible model for an ordinance.
The town's ordinance prohibits retail vendors from serving or preparing food and not packaging meat, eggs, bakery products or other food in non-recyclable polystyrene containers. The ordinance further prevents retailers and vendors within the town from selling polystyrene food or beverage containers.
For people who violated the ordinance, they face or possible maximum fine of $200 for the first violation and a maximum fine of $500 for the second violation.
The task force is starting its work at the same time the council's Transportation Sustainability and Energy Committee continues its review of a purchasing policy for the city that would limit buying plastic water bottles, polystyrene containers and tar sands oil.
The group's meeting starts at 5 p.m. in room 24 at city hall.

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