Portland 1st To Charge Fee on Plastic Dry Cleaner Bags

Portland 1st To Charge Fee on Plastic Dry Cleaner Bags

Portland, Maine, March 19, 2014 (PBBR) - The City of Portland, Maine is considering regulating plastic bags. The proposed ordinance would also regulate paper bags and dry cleaning bags. The ordinance will be the first in the U.S. that affects plastic dry cleaning bags.

Portland's ordinance, if passed into law, would mandate a ten cents fee on disposable bags which would incentivize the use of reusable bags.

"Disposable Bag" is simply defined as any bag that is not a "reusable" bag. Reusable bag is defined as a bag that is:

  1. Designed and manufactured to withstand repeated uses over a period of time;
  2. Is machine washable, or made from a material that can be cleaned and disinfected regularly;
  3. That is at least 2.25 mil thick if made from plastic;
  4. Has a minimum lifetime of 75 uses;
  5. Has the capability of carrying a minimum of 18 pounds.

Businesses that will be affected by the ordinance are stores that sell mainly food, i.e., supermarkets, pharmacies, convenience stores, and vendors at the farmer's market. The law will also apply to bags used at restaurants to contain take-out orders or packaged leftovers.

Also included in the store definition is laundry / dry-cleaning businesses. According to the Green Packaging Working Group, these businesses would be required to charge the ten cents fee for bags used to cover laundered items leaving the store.

According to DowntownME.com, there are approximately 18 dry cleaning businesses in the Portland city proper. The number of dry cleaning bags used each year in the city is not known.

Dry cleaning bags are a detriment to marine life as evidenced by this photo at It's My Bag. In the U.S., 1.4 billion pieces of clothing are dry-cleaned each year and 300 million pounds of plastic waste is generated by dry cleaners using single-use plastic garment covers.

These plastic dry-cleaning bags are truly "single-use". Once you get your clothes home, there is hardly anything else they can be used for. They are simply tossed and become plastic waste.

Portland's disposable bag ordinance is being heard today by the Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee.


Cover photo: Portland, Maine downtown. Author: Jeffrey B. Ferland. Licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5)