To the Editor:
The public has become increasingly concerned about the risk posed by plastic waste. We are becoming aware that microplastics, which may contain harmful chemicals, are ubiquitous in our air, our soil and our oceans. It is estimated that eight million tons of plastic waste end up in our rivers and oceans each year.
In 2018, the four towns on MDI joined many other Maine communities and passed bans on single-use plastic shopping bags, while also banning the use of polystyrene take-out containers. Subsequently, the Maine Legislature enacted a state-wide ban on the use of single-use plastic carryout bags and on polystyrene food containers. These state-wide bans are now slated to go into effect in January 2021.
When Bar Harbor’s ban went into effect on Valentine’s Day 2019, our local Hannaford manager, Jay Boyce, and his staff, successfully launched a “bring your own bag” event. Thousands of reusable bags were purchased in the first few weeks. In no time, shoppers became accustomed to bringing their reusable bags for groceries. Then COVID-19 hit.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended sanitary steps for protecting staff and customers such as wearing masks, shopping with disinfected shopping carts, keeping a six-foot distance from others whenever possible and limiting the number of shoppers in the store at any one time.
As scientists continued learning about COVID-19, the CDC has not found evidence that reusable shopping bags are a source of transmission for the virus. The Hannaford company recently decided to allow customers at all their stores to bring their own reusable bags, and that the associates could pack them. This is good news for all of us who would prefer not to accumulate single-use plastic or brown paper bags. Hannaford does request that customers wipe down their reusable bags after each use.
We would like to thank Hannaford and our local store manager, Jay Boyce, for the dedicated focus on sustainability and for flexibility in dealing with many challenges of operating a grocery business during a global pandemic.
Ted Koffman, MDI Zero Waste Group