Group forms to push for plastic bag ban and reduction in Styrofoam use

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Members of Sustainable Northborough (l to r) Megan Harrington, Joanne Kennedy, James A. Vander Poel, Jeanne Cahill, Sravya Tanikella and Celeste Ramirez
Photo/Melanie Petrucci

Northborough – At last year’s Annual Town Meeting (ATM), a citizen petition brought forth by Sravya Tanikella, an Algonquin Regional High School student, to ban single use plastic bags was passed over. Tanikella will be back this year’s ATM April 22, with a new citizens’ petition. This time she won’t be alone.

Sustainable Northborough was formed because several like-minded residents agreed with the ARHS student. Through various connections, they came together and met in December 2018.  Members include Jeanne Cahill, Janet Cason, Joanne Kennedy, James A. Vander Poel, Megan Harrington and Celeste Ramirez.

“We all have come together and understood that these are issues that need to be addressed,” Tanikella said. “Last year was to spread awareness but now we are really trying to get it out and get it through.”

Cahill said that the two reasons why the petition failed last year was because of technicalities in the language of how the proposed bylaw was written, and it was mentioned at Town Meeting that there was a bill to ban plastic bags before the state legislature.  That bill has since died and the process went back to square one.

“The other thing that I remember hearing was that they didn’t think the town had enough time to learn about it,” added Vander Poel.

The group has gone one step further to create an additional petition to reduce the use of Styrofoam with a polystyrene bylaw petition.

The petition for the Plastic Bag Reduction Bylaw, if passed, will eliminate single use plastic check-out bag use in Northborough.  As such, retail establishments will provide bags that are a recyclable paper bag, a compostable and marine degradable plastic bag or a reusable checkout bag. The ban would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

Similarly, the petition for a Polystyrene Reduction Bylaw will prohibit food establishments from dispensing prepared food using expanded polystyrene in disposable food containers. This will also go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

“It stalled last year [plastic bag ban petition] so we went to the Town to let them know that we were going to do this and we met with the Recycling Committee, the Town Engineer and the Health Agent and we got input as to what would make a sounder bylaw that would sync with Northborough’s existing regulations on solid waste,” Cahill explained.

She said the town government hasn’t given any opinions per se on these bylaw proposals but did indicate that if passed, they wanted to make sure that the bylaws are going to work and be enforceable. They are waiting to hear feedback from Town Counsel.

Tanikella and fellow ARHS student Megan Harrington have reached out to local businesses and provided them with pamphlets.  Many of the larger businesses have already moved in this direction. However, the primary concern from some of the smaller businesses was the cost.

Several other neighboring communities have adopted plastic bag bans and polystyrene reduction bylaws including Shrewsbury, Westborough and Hopkinton. Tanikella said that she received assistance from the team in Shrewsbury behind their polystyrene ban that recently passed.

The ATM will start Monday April 22, at 7:30 p.m. at ARHS,. 79 Bartlett St. For the full ATM warrant visit www.town.northborough.ma.us.