The Camden Board of Selectmen voted August 7 to hold a public hearing on two container proposals with potential environmental impact. The hearing will be held during the board’s next regular meeting, on Tuesday, August 21, starting at 6:30 p.m. in the town meeting room. The motion to forward the issue to a public hearing passed 3-1, with board chair Robert Falciani dissenting and vice chair Alison McKellar absent.

At issue is how to lower the environmental impact of single-use bags and containers made of polystyrene, better known as Styrofoam, by reducing or even banning their distribution by local businesses. Past proposals have included charging fees for plastic and paper bags. The ordinance proposed by the Conservation Commission would ban single-use plastic bags and require a 10-cent fee for paper bags. The proposal also recommends a ban on packaging food in polystyrene containers, which would apply to take-out food.

“I fundamentally believe this is a regional problem, not a local problem,” Falciani said, adding, “I’m really impressed by this town and its conservation perspective.” In explaining his intention to vote against a public hearing at this time, Falciani said he did not think there is such a problem that the board should feel compelled to push the issue through a process that will force a vote. “I’m not closing the door to these ordinances, I just don’t see what the urgency is,” Falciani stated.

Board member Marc Ratner disagreed, saying Camden was behind other area communities such as Belfast in codifying its plastic and Styrofoam reduction efforts.

“We’re not leading on this issue,” he said. “I think we have to give the townspeople a chance to vote on it.”

In August 2017 the Belfast City Council approved a citywide ban on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene containers, which took effect at the beginning of this year. The measure prevents stores from placing purchases in plastic and Styrofoam carry-out containers, although there is no prohibition on the sale of other types of receptacles such as garbage bags. In March, Rockland City Council unanimously approved a ban on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene carry-out containers that will take effect on January 1, 2019. The Natural Resources Council of Maine has compiled a list of the 15 Maine communities with ordinances banning or charging fees for plastic bags, paper bags and Styrofoam containers. The list, including details of each ordinance, is available at www.nrcm.org/projects/sustainability/sustainable-maine-community-toolkits/reusable-bag-ordinance-toolkit/.

Camden Selectman Taylor Benzie said he has looked at the steps taken by Belfast to reduce waste, but he does not believe outlawing plastic bag distribution has been the cure some thought.

“I just don’t know that it’s effective enough to solve the problem,” Benzie said, later adding that it is “probably impossible to have a black-and-white solution” to the issue.

Board member Jenna Lookner said that a prior working group provided helpful research to the board and it was time to advance the process by enabling public comment. “I do think we need to start somewhere,” she said.

Ratner agreed: “It shouldn’t stop here at the Select Board,” he said.