Lenox latest community to seek ban of plastic bags, foam


LENOX — Lenox looks to hop aboard the band wagon of Massachusetts communities ridding themselves of foam containers and single-use plastic bags.

The town's Board of Health on Thursday will hold a public hearing, and likely take a vote, on proposed regulations to ban polystyrene carry-out food receptacles at local eateries. The board also will consider prohibiting most plastic bags retailers use at the check-out counter. The hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

If approved, the bans would take effect a year from Thursday — June 9, 2017. The year grace period is necessary, according to Eric Federer, chairman of the Lenox Environmental Committee.

"We want businesses to get used to the regulations," he said.

Currently 38 cities and towns — up 11 since December — have banned either foam containers or plastic bags, with Lee, Great Barrington and Williamstown among the several adopting both. The state Senate also passed a similar measure recently, which could eventually lead to statewide regulations.

The vast majority of the cities and towns that have enacted either or both bans in the commonwealth — most recently Lee — sought town meeting or city council approval. Lenox would be one of the few to go through the board of health.

Under state law, boards of health have the option to adopt plastic bag and polystyrene bans for their communities as a way to streamline the process. The board can revise the regulations more quickly than the time it takes to call another town meeting to act on bylaw revisions, according to Tri-Town Health Department Director James Wilusz, whose agency serves Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge.

Such flexibility allowed Lenox to propose simpler regulations than Lee and other communities, such as no ban on rigid polystyrene.

"We want to be very successful and less daunting so people can comply," Wilusz said.

The proposed bans are at the retailer end; consumers can bring their own bags and food containers of any kind to a restaurant or store.

The regulations were developed, in part, as a result of several public information sessions earlier this year.

"There was a huge community conversation and outreach for months; we made some changes based on public comments," Wilusz noted.

The ultimate goal for plastic bag/polystyrene supporters is eateries using environmentally friendly and recyclable food containers as well as driving consumers toward keeping handy reusable shopping bags.

Lenox plans to make available reusable bags to local food pantries, the Lenox Community Center and those in need in town.

Federer pointed out with a proposed plastic bag ban having recently passed the state Senate, momentum has picked up toward a statewide prohibition.

"I think everybody knows this is coming," he said.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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