Blog : Portsmouth's Single Use Carryout Plastic Bag Ordinance - We Need Your Help!

By Sarah Mahoney | Apr 1, 2015 | in

We are looking to the Green Alliance community to take action on this Plastic Bag Ordinance here in Portsmouth, NH. Check out some information about the ordinance and ways that you can get involved below.

The Surfrider Foundation - New Hampshire Chapter is a group of local volunteers dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the oceans, waves, and beaches. In 2012 a sub-committee within the Chapter formed to create RAP - Rise Above Plastics. This committee is comprised entirely of volunteer community members.

RAP has been coalition building since March 2012 and partnered with Zero Waste Portsmouth, Green Alliance, the Seacoast Science Center, Blue Ocean Society for Maine Conservation, The Gundalow Company, and Mr. Fox Composting to form the Rise Above Plastic Coalition - all organizations and volunteers helping to build awareness and work on common sense solutions for reducing plastic pollution on NH's Seacoast. Our RAP Committee also launched a business survey through the Chamber of Commerce to engage businesses of all shapes and sizes in this conversation.

Since 2012 we have attended over 30 outreach events to speak with community members about the harmful impacts of plastic pollution and in 2013 started collecting signatures on a petition stating, "I support the reduction of single use carryout plastic bags in the City of Portsmouth through a fee or ban". And, you were one of those signators - thank you!

In January 2015, the Portsmouth City Council was presented with a packet of information including a summary of the RAP Committee's work, support of two legal teams stating there is enabling legislation in the State of NH to pass a ban of this nature, examples of other towns and municipalities in New England that have a ban or fee already, and, RAP provided a draft ordinance specific for the City of Portsmouth. If this ordinance is passed, we will become the first of any NH town to do so. Here are some of the highlights of the ordinance:

  • This ordinance only applies to two-handled carryout plastic bags provided to customers at the point of sale of all retails stores in the City of Portsmouth. (no matter the size)
  • Stores are allowed to distribute only Recycled Paper Bags or Reusable Bags to Customers for the purpose of carrying away goods or other materials from the point of sale.
  • A Customer shall be charged a minimum of ten cents ($.10) for each Recycled Paper Bag provided by the Store (the Paper Bag Cost Pass-Through). The sale of each bag shall be separately itemized on the sale receipt.
  • Nothing in this ordinance prohibits Customers from using bags of any type that they bring to the Store themselves or from carrying away goods that are not placed in a bag, in lieu of using bags provided by the Store.
  • A Store may provide a Customer participating in Special Supplement Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with one (1) or more Recycled Paper Bags or Reusable Bags at no cost.
  • Single-use Carryout Plastic Bags may be distributed to Customers by food providers.
  • The proposed ordinance makes special provisions for food safety by allowing for non-two-handled plastic bags in grocery stores for consumers to bring items (meat, fruit, veggies) to the point of sale.
  • This ordinance also does not apply to the non-two-handled plastic bags given out at the pharmacy for example to hand over a prescription.

We could use your help THIS WEEK by writing a letter of support to City Council. You can do so now by clicking here.

SUBJECT LINE: Single-Use Carryout Plastic Bag Ordinance

MESSAGE: As a resident of Portsmouth, NH, I strongly urge the Portsmouth City Council to support a Reusable Bag Ordinance to help mitigate the detrimental effects that plastic carry-out bags are having on our community, waterways, coastline and marine life.

Or, if you are interested in writing a Letter to the Editor, you can contact us and we can help answer frequently asked questions, and give you more information about the detrimental affects of plastics pollution, etc. In the meantime, here is a one-pager on the issue.

The First Reading of the Ordinance by the Portsmouth City Council could happen as soon as Monday, April 6 so please ACT NOW! Let's flood the City Council with statements of support!