Council encourages initiative on plastic bag ban


PORTSMOUTH – The Portsmouth City Council has tabled an ordinance that would have banned disposable plastic bags from being used in retail establishments within the City of Portsmouth.

The legislation was meant to combat the polluting environmental effects of bags as well as the accompanying blight within the City.

The move was due to a miscommunication between council and City Solicitor John Haas. Haas informed council that council “could not put general legislation on the ballot.”

“(Citizens) can definitely pass a petition for a ballot initiative,” said Haas. “If they got the required signatures, depending on when it was done, this could end up on next year’s primary ballot or the general election.”

Mayor and 1st Ward Councilman Sean Dunne said he supported a ballot initiative as a way to mobilize young voters interested in environmental concerns.

“The spirit of this legislation was to encourage – particularly younger voters – to become part of the process. If six people vote on it here it defeats the purpose…A group can use this ordinance’s language to put it on the ballot.”

Council voted 6-0 to table the ordinance.

Other council members said they had spoken to local retailers about what a plastic bag tax would mean for their business.

“Prior to COVID, Kroger had an initiative to do away with plastic bags as they have in many other cities,” said 2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon. “They are moving towards biodegradable bags. They were going to do that here in Portsmouth by 2025. However, with COVID everything got set back…they were unable to tell me where that stands. But they agree that plastic bags are a problem.”

“I spoke with a manager from Save-a-Lot who said that plastic bags were 2 cents while paper bags were 10 cents,” said 4th Ward Councilwoman Lyvette Mosley. “They have thousands of plastic bags already in their warehouse. They said, if they were given time of perhaps a year, corporate may be able to prepare to change to biodegradable bags. Right now, they could not afford to do it.”

It remains to be seen if local groups or individuals will take up the issue, obtain the necessary signatures, and add the initiative to the ballot next year.

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