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February 13, 2013

Ban on plastic bags eyed for Manchester

MANCHESTER — To some, the ubiquitous plastic bag is a convenience; to others, it is the bane of the environment.

Now, a coalition of residents and officials from the town and the Manchester Essex Regional School District have teamed up in an effort they say will make the town of Manchester more environmentally friendly; they’re seeking to ban the distribution of single-use plastic bags through a warrant article for April’s Town Meeting.

Manchester resident Gary Gilbert petitioned to get the article on the warrant, which would bar the distribution of thin-filmed, single use, plastic bags commonly used at convenience and grocery stores; it would not target trash bags or plastic produce bags.

If approved, the legislation would appoint police officers to enforce the ban, with a fine of $50 on the first offense, $100 on the second and $300 on a third of subsequent offense.

In place of plastic, Gilbert has suggested retailers utilize reusable bags, or anything biodegradable, such as paper.

However, the proposed article states a retailer may petition the Board of Selectmen to get a new form of a single use bag approved, providing the material meets specific standards set by the American Society for Testing and Material Standards.

Gilbert is set to further discuss the article with the Board of Selectmen on Feb. 25. The board would then have to place the article on the warrant to send it to voters at the Annual Town Meeting on April 1.

The Green Team, a student environmental group at the Manchester Essex Regional High School, has also gotten behind the legislation.

Anna Heffernan and Max Nesbit, two students in the program, gathered reports and responses of how plastic bags affect coastal environments.

Out of 100 people surveyed, mostly Manchester residents, the two found that about 90 percent would be in support of a town-wide ban. According to their findings, about five people were indifferent about the issue and another five said they utilize bags to clean up messes left behind by their pets.

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