About 80% of the junk that ends up in the ocean is made of plastic.
The City of Portland has chosen to do its part to keep some of that junk out of Casco Bay. On June 15, The City Council voted to put a fee on plastic bags and to prohibit the use of polystyrene packaging by restaurants and retailers.
For the past two years, Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell has been working with the City of Portland’s Transportation, Sustainability & Energy Committee on proposals to reduce plastic bag and polystyrene waste. A long-time Portland resident herself, she worked as a member of the Green Packaging Task Force to help craft ordinances that encourage consumers to convert to reusable bags and that require retailers to limit the use of polystyrene packaging.
A marine ecologist, Cathy helped build understanding about the impact of marine debris on the ocean. “Plastic and polystyrene may break down into smaller pieces, but they do not biodegrade,” she said. “Plastic bags floating in Casco Bay mimic jellyfish and other edible critters. Harbor porpoises, seals, sea turtles, and birds mistake these plastic bags for food, and we end up harming the sea life that so many of us—tourists and residents alike—hope to see around the Bay.”
Cathy also commented on the less obvious ways that plastic bags wreak havoc on our environment, “As ecomainerepresentatives will attest, plastic bags often gum up our recycling machinery, costing us thousands of dollars in repairs and downtime in the facility. This waste can also clog our storm drains and sewer systems.”
Development Director Will Everitt, also a Portland resident, spoke in favor of the ordinances before the City Council vote, saying, “It is a rare day when our members don’t see plastic bags while out boating.” He pointed out that Casco Bay accounts for $628 million a year in economic activity, ranging from tourism to commercial fishing. “I think it is important for us to think about what Casco Bay brings to the table.”