The Camden Select Board voted Tuesday against an ordinance that would have banned single-use plastic bags and levied a 10-cent fee on paper bags following a public hearing in which a majority of residents in attendance expressed support for the measure.

The board voted 3-1 not to adopt the ordinance and instead to forward it for further recommendations to the Midcoast Solid Waste Corporation, which handles recycling and municipal solid waste for Camden, Rockport, Lincolnville and Hope. Select board member Jenna Lookner dissented and Marc Ratner was not present.

The vote effectively means the issue of single-use bags will not be on the warrant for voters in November unless a public petition to place the measure on the ballot receives enough signatures.

The board did, however, approve an ordinance banning single-use food containers, made of polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam. That ban will be put to voters on November 6.

While board members unanimously supported efforts to reduce harmful environmental effects of plastic, some were concerned the ordinance banning single-use plastic bags and charging ten cents for single-use paper bags would be both difficult to enforce and place a burden on local small businesses.

Chair Robert Falciani said that due to the prevalence of plastic, he sees bags as only a fraction of the problem, which would be addressed more effectively by enforcing the town’s ordinance against littering and by reducing trash.

“I think we need to think of something more creative going forward than banning plastic bags,” Falciani said.

Vice Chair Alison McKellar recommended increasing the involvement of Camden police in enforcing the littering ordinance.

“My concern with banning plastic bags is it’s such a distraction,” said McKellar, who agreed with Falciani that bags are only a small portion of the overall problem of litter, which more often comes in the form of candy wrappers, potato chip bags and other small, discarded items. “I’m concerned about raising our carbon footprint in the name of feeling good by banning plastic bags.”

Board member Taylor Benzie said he believes the focus should be on the litter ordinance already on the books rather than the addition of a new regulation banning merchant bag distribution.

“I do not feel the plastic bag ordinance is the correct one for us at this time,” Benzie said, adding that the ordinance is “a waste of our energy” and the town should instead look to reducing climate change through recycling. “I truly believe we need to be focusing on the problem at the core and I don’t think this is doing it.”

Jenna Lookner said there is no perfect answer to the problem of plastic waste and contamination, but she would not agree to blocking the ordinance from going to the ballot because the town needs to take action in some form.

During the public hearing, resident Cindy Lampley was the sole voice against the ordinance, explaining she is concerned Camden authorities would become “bag police” enforcing an ordinance that could potentially harm small businesses by causing difficulties and ill feelings among shoppers from places where there are no bag restrictions.

The hearing included comments from 13 people who supported the bag ban, including three local students. One of those was Simon O’Shea, a senior at Camden Hills Regional High School, who said that as an employee of the Hannaford Supermarket on Elm Street, he places customers’ groceries in up to 100 bags during a typical four-hour shift. O’Shea got a laugh from the audience when he said he was at the meeting “voicing support against what I’m doing” at work.

Resident Amy Russell said she agreed with others who support a full ban on single-use plastic bags, which can be replaced by shoppers’ own reusable bags. “It’s so easy to bring bags, it’s a matter of habit,” Russell said. “It won’t happen until it’s banned.” Molly Mulhern said she believes a ban will force residents to change their routines. “The only way we’re going to make this happen is to make something that’s inconvenient,” she said.

Tom Peaco, executive director of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce, encouraged the Select Board to “move regionally on this” by finding a solution in line with other area communities so shoppers do not choose where to spend money based on bag ordinances that differ from town to town.

In August 2017 the Belfast City Council approved a citywide ban on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene containers, which began on January 1 of this year. In March, Rockland City Council approved a similar ban, which will take effect on January 1, 2019.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine has compiled a list of 15 Maine communities with ordinances banning or charging fees for plastic bags, paper bags and Styrofoam containers, which is available at