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Town meeting to vote on single-use plastic ban

  • Buckland Selectboard Chair Zachary Turner was inspired to propose a bylaw banning single-use plastic after noticing rubbish while fishing on the Deerfield River. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 4/24/2019 10:37:46 PM

BUCKLAND — Going a step beyond a bag ban, the Selectboard has supported a proposal to prohibit the distribution of single-use plastic by town businesses.

To go into effect, the proposed bylaw must be approved at Buckland’s annual meeting May 8. And if successful, Buckland would be among the first towns in Massachusetts to ban single-use plastic items. While many towns have passed regulations on plastic bags in recent years and some have also banned certain single-use plastic products such as polystyrene food containers, few have moved to prohibit all plastic objects that are not biodegradable, according to the Massachusetts Green Network.

The ban was first suggested in November by Selectboard Chair Zachary Turner, a 36-year-old construction coordinator elected to the Selectboard two years ago. An avid fisherman, Turner said he was inspired to propose the ban after continuing to see plastic rubbish floating in the Deerfield River. And while the idea began as a pipe dream, he said, it soon took on a life of its own as neighbors learned about the idea and pushed him to go through with it.

“Buckland’s not big, but somebody has to be the first one,” Turner said. “It is something I feel strong about. I’m not a quote unquote green person. I think that recycling is important. I think that we need to take care of the environment because we only get one shot at it.”

The other two Selectboard members, Dena Willmore and Barry Del Castilho, expressed strong support for the proposal Tuesday night.

“I can’t believe I heard someone say ‘Buckland is stronger than Malibu,’” Castilho said.

Interim Town Administrator Bob Markel, a former Springfield mayor, was equally supportive of the proposal.

“This is the strongest bylaw in the country,” Markel said.

The single-use plastic ban includes all non-biodegradable plastic items: bags, utensils – even packaging, if the product is manufactured in Buckland. Plastic items packaged or manufactured outside of Buckland like soda bottles are permitted to be sold in town under the proposed law.

The Board of Health is the primary body responsible for enforcing the rules, the bylaw says. The board can issue a warning for a businesses’ first infraction, $100 for a second and $200 for a third, while subsequent infractions will result in a $300 fine or loss of license.

While Turner said he’d never written a bylaw before, he managed to finish it in time for this year’s town meeting, cobbling together similar bylaws from towns across the country and seeking legal advice from a friend and Buckland’s counsel.

“In the back of my mind I thought, if I thought of it, somebody else has done it,” Turner said. “I’ll be able to take their bylaws and just change a couple words, make it work for us, by the time I had realized that this doesn’t exist anywhere else, too many people knew about it … and I had to write the bylaw.”

Turner said most businesses won’t be affected by the ban as they have already switched to biodegradable products.

West End Pub has already switched to paper products like straws and bags a few months ago, Bartender Citron Kelly said Tuesday.

Mo’s Fudge Factor full-time employee Liz Billings said Wednesday that the store uses biodegradable products where possible, including paper bags and wooden spoons.

“In general, we try to have as little effect on the environment as possible because the owner is very conscientious,” Billings said.

Turner said local businesses have had “plenty of time” to discuss the matter with him, saying he notified them about the proposal earlier in the year and received few responses.

Read the single-use plastic ban bylaw here: The bylaw is up for a vote at the annual town meeting scheduled May 8 at 7 p.m. at Mohawk Trail Regional School. Read the warrant here:

Reach Grace Bird at or 413-772-0261, ext. 280.

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