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Brookline plastic bag and polystyrene bans begin Dec. 1

Posted by Brock Parker  October 9, 2013 09:35 AM

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Businesses in Brookline may be more prepared for a fast-approaching ban on disposable plastic bags than a ban on disposable polystyrene food and beverage containers.

Both bans take effect on Dec. 1, and Alan Balsam, Brookline’s public health director, said the transition for the ban on disposable plastic bags is going more smoothly than he had expected.

The bag ban will affect as many as 90 larger retail stores, and Balsam said town officials are confident that the supermarkets and pharmacies are poised to comply by the deadline.

“I am very optimistic about the plastic bag ban,” said Balsam in an update to Brookline Selectmen Tuesday. “I’ve got more questions about the polystyrene ban.”

Balsam said more than 350 local food service businesses will be affected by the ban on polystyrene food and beverage containers. The containers are frequently used for takeout food orders.

Town Meeting approved both bans in November of 2012 citing concerns that the products are not good for the environment.

While paper bags and reusable bags are acceptable alternatives to disposable plastic bags, Balsam said some businesses are finding it more difficult to find alternatives for their polystyrene containers.

Balsam said the alternatives to polystyrene containers can be considerably more expensive to businesses, including psychiatric hospitals that don’t use real dishes because they could be used as weapons. Other businesses have large inventories of polystyrene containers and may not be able to find an appropriate replacement in time for Dec. 1.

Even some businesses that have taken big steps to comply with the local ban are still running into problems.

Dunkin’ Donuts has rolled out a new cup in Brookline to comply with the polystyrene ban, but Balsam said the company still hasn’t found a lid for the cups that will comply.

As a result of the complications, Balsam said he expects Dunkin' Donuts and more businesses to request waivers seeking additional time to comply with the ban on polystyrene containers.

He said he will probably grant waivers to businesses struggling to comply with the ban for the first six months after the new bylaw takes effect, but he said that after six months getting a further extension could be a more onerous process for the businesses.

In the next few weeks, Balsam said the town will be distributing more information about the bans to businesses and will be holding training sessions about the ban at the end of October and in November.

--brock.globe@gmail.com

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