MANCHESTER — Residents agreed Tuesday in secret-ballot voting to ban plastic bags in retail stores in town. The vote appears to make Manchester the first capital-area municipality to ban single-use plastic bags in stores.
Vote totals were not immediately available Wednesday, but E. Patrick Gilbert, town manager, said the proposal to ban plastic bags passed by a substantial margin.
Conservation Commission Chairman Gary Hinckley said,before the vote that he hopes other area communities follow suit to ban plastic bags, which he said litter roadsides and harm the environment and animals that might eat the plastic.
The bag ban will become effective July 1, according to the ordinance.
The ban will not apply to paper bags, reusable bags, produce bags, bags required for products that need special handling, or bags provided by pharmacists to carry prescription drugs.
Hinckley, who helped draft the ordinance, said he had not heard criticism of the proposed ban from local business owners, who were invited to a public meeting to discuss the idea.
Hinckley said the manager of the local Rite Aid store said the store was ready to implement the change as soon as the ordinance passed. He said the chain already has switched away from plastic at other stores where plastic bags are banned.
He hopes people already are used to bringing their own reusable shopping bags to grocery stores, so also bringing such bags to a smaller store to pick up a few items won’t take long to get used to doing.
Hinckley said that during an annual roadside cleanup in town, plastic bags frequently are found littering the roadsides.
He said town officials won’t be actively monitoring whether retail stores comply with the ban but would take action if people report a store is not in compliance.
The ordinance states the town manager or his designee will have responsibility for enforcing the ordinance. It states a store violating the ordinance would be issued a written warning. Then if there are additional violations by that store, it could be fined up to $250 for the first violation and up to $500 for a second violation within a year.
Town and school positions up for election were uncontested Tuesday.
The plastic bag ban was the lone local issue decided by secret ballot in Tuesday’s elections. Residents meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Manchester Elementary School for the rest of Town Meeting, including votes on numerous funding articles related to the $1.87 million town budget, a moratorium banning any new recreational or medical marijuana storefronts, and a proposal to increase setback requirements for recreational marijuana businesses.