Attention Portland Shoppers: Will You BYOB?

Attention Portland shoppers: get your nickels ready.

bagStarting this Wednesday, April 15, many Portland stores* will be forced to charge you 5 cents for disposable shopping bags – yes, those paper and plastic bags ones you’ve likely been using to haul your groceries your whole life.

Or you can BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) and avoid the new fee.

It’s one prong of Portland’s green packaging policies city councilors passed ddcuplast summer.  Portland is also banning foam containers the same day. Dunkin Donuts stores in Portland recently phased out its classic Styrofoam cups and replaced them with a new cup printed with a message on the side, “Our new cup can be recycled.”

Hannaford is getting ready, too. The grocery store chain has been giving away free reusable bags at its Portland stores since March 29 (by the way, you can still get free bags until April 14). Hannaford will start charging $1.29 for the reusable “Fight Hunger” shopping bags starting Wednesday. For every bag sold, Hannaford plans to donate 25 cents to a local food bank. The company expects to sell “hundreds of thousands of the bags a year, providing a new income stream for food banks,” according to a statement from the company.

“When someone buys a reusable Fight Hunger bag, they are helping the environment and fighting hunger at the same time,” said Eric Blom, Hannaford spokesman.

Proceeds from the fee itself will also be donated to hunger relief, Blom said.

Environmental groups are praising city leaders for encouraging Portland shoppers to use reusable shopping bags.

“These initiatives are reducing waste; reducing fossil fuel consumption; and reducing environmental impacts, including the threat that plastic bags pose to marine life in Casco Bay when they end up in the ocean,” Sarah Lakeman, Natural Resources Council of Maine, said in a news release.

The Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association and Councilors John Coyne, Cheryl Leeman and Nick Mavodones opposed the ordinance.

“We’re extremely disappointed in the vote by the city council tonight. It’s a vote really against Portland citizens. They’re going to be paying a tax on bags, both plastic and paper checkout bags, and on top of that, they’re going to be paying the sales tax, so it’s really a tax plus a tax,” Shelley Doak, representing Maine Grocers & Food Producers, told CBS 13 in June after city councilors passed the ordinance in a 6-3 vote.

Other opponents said the bag fee will push people to shop outside Portland.

“That’s why I won’t grocery shop in Portland any more. I have cats. I need those plastic bags, and I’m not going to pay for them,” one woman wrote in an email to CBS 13 last week.

What will you do? BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag), PBF (Pay the Bag Fee), or SOP (Shop Outside Portland)? Leave your plan in the comments below.

*The bag fee applies at stores where food makes up at least 2 percent of sales; dry cleaners, department stores, restaurants and farmers’ markets are exempt.

Jon Chrisos

About Jon Chrisos

Award-winning journalist Jon Chrisos is the investigative and consumer reporter at CBS 13 in Portland. He also anchors weeknights at 5:30. Chrisos is “On Your Side” investigating the stories that make a difference in your life. He’s passionate about helping those who’ve been wronged, exposing government waste, asking tough questions, and uncovering the truth.