2017-01-10 / Front Page

Saco considers photodegradable bags

By LIZ GOTTHELF
Staff Writer
SACO — A presentation on a photodegradable alternative to single-use plastic shopping bags received a positive response from Saco city councilors on Monday night.

The City Council last month put on hold plans to create a city ordinance banning single-use plastic bags in grocery stores to allow time to review the matter further. City councilors over the past few months had discussed alternatives to single-use plastic bags, including paper bags and reusable grocery bags. 

Councilor Alan Minthorn had suggested the city consider photodegradable bags, and at his request a representative from a Massachusetts company that makes photodegradable bags spoke to the city Monday night. 

Michael Vanin, chief operating officer of Gxt Green, spoke about the company’s Ecograde shopping bags which are degradable — able to be broken down by either biological or chemical means. Though not plastic, they have the appearance and feel of traditional plastic shopping bags.

Vanin said plastic bags can take more than 400 years to degrade and can be harmful to animals if ingested.

The Ecograde bags will photodegrade from the sun in 240 days, said Vanin. The bags are made from reclaimed and natural resin, and some, when burned, leave a mineral residue that is beneficial to soil.

The company has a line of bags made from sugar cane husks and calcium dust, a residual from mining, using products that would otherwise be thrown away.

“It is a win/win for everybody,” said Vanin.

Minthorn said he looked forward to crafting an ordinance that would support the use of degradable shopping bags as an alternative to single-use plastic bags in grocery stores.

Councilor Kevin Roche said he thought the city should get input from neighboring Biddeford before it made any decisions on a grocery bag ordinance.

“I think the presentation was self-explanatory,” said Councilor David Precourt. He said he thought since the Ecograde bags wouldn’t cost more than plastic shopping bags, why not consider using them instead of single use plastic bags.

Councilor Eric Cote said though he thought the Ecograde shopping bags seemed like a good alternative to single use plastic shopping bags, the city should talk to communities where the bags are already used.

The city should also consider requiring newspaper bags to be made of photodegradable material, Cote said.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or egotthelf@journaltribune.com.

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