Plastic bag ban waits for law change

MILFORD – The town recycling committee is waiting for the state Legislature to take action before proposing a ban on plastic grocery bags.

The committee had planned to collect signatures for a petition warrant article, according to recycling committee member George Hoyt, but on the advice of Milford Town Administrator Mark Bender, it will hold off.

A few months ago the committee started talking about a possible ban on grocery stores giving customers single-use plastic grocery bags.

“In our fact findings, we discovered municipalities are only permitted to enact ordinances contingent upon the permission of the state legislature,” Hoyt said.

Under RSA 31:39, towns are not permitted to regulate non-reusable plastic bags.

“We are optimistic that the new Legislature will make progress on this subject in the coming months,” he said. “In the meantime, we have been working with (Milford Democrat state Rep. Joelle Martin) to push forward House Bill 102 that will make these initiatives legal.”

State Rep. Judith Spang (D-Durham), who recently introduced a bill to ban plastic bags and plastic straws, also introduced legislation to allow municipalities to establish their own bylaws. Martin is a co-sponsor.

Because New Hampshire is not a “Home Rule” state, towns and cities need the permission of the Legislature to enact certain ordinances.

Bans on single-use bags are now in effect in California and the city of Boston. Proponents say many of the estimated one trillion bags used worldwide each year wind up in streams and oceans, posing a danger to birds, fish and marine mammals.

Hoyt said he is hoping for a petition article on the Milford warrant in 2020.

Kathy Cleveland may be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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