Portsmouth Considers Ban On Plastic Bags

Apr 24, 2015

The Portsmouth City Council is considering a ban on plastic bags. Portsmouth City Councilor Brad Lown is sponsoring the ordinance, on behalf of the New Hampshire Surf rider Foundation's ‘Rise Above Plastics’ campaign. The ordinance would ban single-use plastic bags in the city, and allow stores to pass on a 10-cent per bag fee for using paper bags. 

Tell us why you feel a ban on plastic bags is needed in Portsmouth.

The average family uses 500 plastic bags a year and nationwide that comes to about a hundred billion; somewhere between 1 and 8 percent get recycled; so the vast majority end up somewhere else, such as landfills, or in the ocean or trees where they’re consumed by birds and other wildlife. There’s an alternative- and that would be reusable bags.

It’s a relatively small community- what sort of impact do you think a ban like this will have?

We’re not the first municipality that’s tried it… and it seems to be working in these other communities in the sense that it’s substantially reducing the amount of plastic bags in the waste stream.  

Would this ban include garbage and trash bags?

No. There are quite a few plastic bags that are NOT covered by the ordinance.

The Mayor has said he thinks the majority of calls and emails to his office have been favorable- but the issue needs more study; what’s your sense as to the prospects for a ban being implemented?

I can’t say whether I have five votes on the council, there are nine of us; I think probably we do. Portsmouth is a progressive city, at least we like to think of ourselves that way… this has generated all kinds of emotion… one woman wrote a letter to the paper saying she would think of me every time she steps in dog waste. I took that as a compliment.

What do you say to those who oppose a ban because they see it as a freedom of choice issue- an example of government overreach;

People like to trot out the state motto ‘Live Free or Die’… People say ‘I have the right to choose between a plastic bag and a paper bag’; Well, that’s not a right, it’s something that just needs to be addressed as a long term environmental impact in my view.