By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Northborough – Voters passed Articles 36 and 37 eliminating single-use plastic bags in retail and expanded polystyrene containers in food establishments when they reconvened for the second night of the 2019 Annual Town Meeting held April 23 at Algonquin Regional High School. Deliberation picked up with Article 28 and the remainder of the meeting involved zoning bylaws and citizen petitions.
After a failed attempt to secure the plastic bag reduction bylaw at last year’s Annual Town Meeting, Sravya Tanikella, a sophomore at Algonquin, was back this year with support from Jeanne Cahill and members of Sustainable Northborough.
“I worked with the town to make these bylaws extremely compatible and as thorough as we could with optimal flexibility,” Sravya stated.
She then described the environmental impacts of plastic, including its effects on ocean life and “clogging up” recycling operations.
Cahill said that the town’s recycling costs and solid waste budget is going up 15 percent. The increased cost of recycling is due to plastic bags which get entangled in the mechanisms of recycling facilities. She then explained that China is no longer accepting the town’s recycling.
“We are not completing the loop right now, we are not getting our materials recycled efficiently…plastics bags are a problem and polystyrene foam is a problem and is not accepted in recycling,” Cahill added. “Our recycling system is broken and we need to address this and that is part of what these bylaws are doing.”
The Recycling Committee and the Board of Health offered unanimous support of Article 36 but the Municipal Code and Bylaw Committee, led by Peter Brockmann, found problems with how the bylaws were written.
A number of voters voiced their opinions. Some vocalized concerns over the inconvenience of the plastic ban and others asked if consumers could have the choice to pay for a plastic bag at checkout.
“Environmental concerns on this planet have reached a crisis, plastic waste is at catastrophic levels…we are all inhabitants of planet earth,” resident Judy Palken said. “What is the alternative if we don’t take all possible and reasonable steps to fix the damage?”
“Yesterday was Earth Day, and I’d like just for once, for just a few minutes when you consider your vote to think about Earth Day,” asked Chris Woodcock. “Is inconvenience that much of a problem? I suggest it really isn’t.”
Article 36 passed with a majority vote and, without discussion, Article 37 passed as well. Both shall go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.