SAUGUS — Saugus joined 35 other Massachusetts cities and towns Monday night banning school trays, clam shell containers, egg cartons, cups, plates and other items made from Polystyrene.
The material contains dangerous substances which, when heated, release toxic chemicals that may be carcinogenic, Town Meeting member Ann Devlin wrote in the proposal. The food and beverage containers form a significant portion of the solid waste that adds to the tonnage being incinerated, she said.
Devlin is also president of Saugus Action Volunteers for the Environment. Polystyrene is not biodegradable or compostable and is generally not recyclable, she said.
The Finance Committee, which made a recommendation on the proposal because of the fees associated with violating the bylaw, urged voters to indefinitely postpone the article.
Chairman Ken DePatto said this is because legislatures are already working on legislation related to banning plastic at the state level. State Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) and Sen. James Eldridge (D-Marlborough) have filed legislation for a statewide plastic bag ban that would commence in August. The Finance Committee made the same recommendation on a ban on plastic bags, but Town Meeting passed the article on May 6.
“It really has bothered me personally to see that symbol on the bottom (of the containers and cups) that makes a lot of people think it’s OK to recycle,” said Devlin. “You put it in your recycling bin because of the symbol and it goes to the incinerator or ends up in the parks or waterways.”
Dunkin’ Donuts has made a commitment to phase out all Polystyrene by 2020 and other companies have made similar commitments, she said.
“So I feel like it’s not an impossible thing to ask,” said Devlin.
Town Meeting member Steve DiVirgilio said his concern was with telling businesses what they can and cannot purchase.
“If you don’t like the product, don’t use it,” he said. “I don’t use styrofoam. I don’t use a lot of plastics. I don’t need a town bylaw to tell me that. Maybe it’s because I’m educated. I don’t know.”
Pamela Goodwin, a Precinct 5 Town Meeting member, pointed out that restaurants often only supply the foam containers, and, since she’s opposed to using them, she’s forced to instead leave her leftovers behind.
Town Meeting members voted 31-9 in favor of the ban.
The ban will be delayed six months to give businesses time to phase out the styrofoam containers they have already purchased.
Under the plastic bag reduction bylaw, single-use plastic checkout bags can no longer be distributed, used, or sold at checkout in Saugus. Reusable shopping bags will instead be promoted. The ban does not include dry cleaning, newspaper, produce and meat bags.
The impacts of the production and use of the bags include “contributing to the potential death of aquatic and land animals through ingestion and entanglement; contributing to pollution of the natural environment; creating a burden to solid waste collection and recycling facilities; increasing the amount of plastic that is incinerated in Saugus; clogging drainage systems; and requiring the use of millions of barrels of crude oil nationally for their manufacture,” Devlin wrote in the proposal.
More than 100 Massachusetts cities and towns have already adopted a plastic bag ban, including Lynn, Danvers, Salem, Beverly, Hamilton and Marblehead.
Both bylaws will be enforced by the Board of Health. A first offense will warrant a warning and the penalty for a second offense would be $50 per day. Each subsequent offense will be $100 per day.