Athol bans thin-film bags

  • Recorder Staff/Domenic PoliAthol town meeting.

  • Recorder Staff/Domenic PoliAthol town meeting.

Recorder Staff
Monday, June 19, 2017

ATHOL — It was smooth sailing at Athol’s annual town meeting Monday, which ended with residents voting to ban single-use thin-film plastic bags as a way to be more environmentally friendly.

The evening’s final article was put onto the warrant by a petition started by Heidi Strickland and Pat Roix, who explained their intentions before the vote in the Athol Memorial Building to add a plastic bag reduction bylaw. Both said their aim is to take a small step to help the environment and protect the beauty of the area.

Strickland said 53 other Massachusetts towns and cities have banned plastic checkout bags. She said bylaws like this get residents to “adjust their habits” and be more mindful. Roughly a dozen of the 116 voters in attendance opposed the article.

The bylaw, set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, will prohibit retail or grocery stores in Athol from distributing, using or selling thin-film, single-use plastic bags except for when they contain dry cleaning, newspaper, produce, meat, bulk foods, wet items and “other similar merchandise.” The bylaw also encourages customers to bring reusable or biodegradable bags to stores, which are also encouraged to make reusable bags available for sale to customers at a reasonable price.

The bylaw states production of thin-film, single-use plastic bags negatively affects the environment in many ways. It states aquatic animals and other wildlife are harmed through ingestion or entanglement of these bags, which also often clog storm drainage systems and millions of barrels of crude oil for production.

Fines will consist of a warning for a first offense, a $25 fine for a second offense and a $50 fine for a third and any subsequent offense.

Town budget

Residents adopted a $19,154,459 budget (with $4,503,296 for education) with little discussion. This is a $212,143 increase from the $18,942,316 budget (with $4,326,570 for education) adopted last year.

According to Town Clerk Nancy Burnham, 1.7 percent of the 6,740 people on the town’s voter checklist showed up to town meeting.

You can reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 258
On Twitter: @DomenicPoli

Editor’s note: This story has been edited to correct the last name of the Athol town clerk.