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Group cleans up Back Cove, asks for grocery bag fee in Portland

PORTLAND (WGME)- Some environmental groups are pushing for a fee on plastic and paper grocery bags in Portland. They cleaned up Back Cove Sunday afternoon to prove a point.
They want city council members to vote for two ordinances Monday night. One would ban the use of foam packaging. The other would tack a $.05 fee on plastic and paper bags at Portland grocery stores.

"There are dozens of other cities and states really that have put a fee or banned plastic bags altogether because of the issue that it poses to our marine and terrestrial environment," said Todd Martin with the Natural Resource Council of Maine.

The group kept track of everything they collected and plan to present it to the city council Monday night.

"And say hey, we're finding this stuff on our beaches, we're finding it in our parks, this is something that needs to be addressed and these ordinances could go a long way to do that," said Ryan Cope with SurfRider Maine.

"I mean, just being out here today with 15, 20 volunteers, we found hundreds of plastic bags, and hundreds of pieces of small Styrofoam polluting Baxter Boulevard," Martin adds.

But some shoppers, like Wil Clayton, said a fee is not the answer.

"It's like a penalty in a sense so why don't they, like you know they can make many other things biodegradable, they can begin to change the technology instead of just like penalizing the people for something we're very used to using," Clayton said.

He adds, $.05 is a lot for some people.

"There's a lot of people that, maybe it might not seem like much but maybe they only got a couple dollars," Clayton said.

For these volunteers though, it's the best way to get shoppers to rethink how they bag their food.

"The next time you go shopping, you might be more likely to bring your bag because you don't want to pay that five cents," Cope said.

If the city council votes for the fee, it will take effect next April.