By Maclaine Willett, assistant news editor
Due to environmental concerns on Nantucket recently brought to the town committee’s attention, the Town Meeting Warrant will contain an article on plastic bans. This is not to say that these pushes for change in the allowance of certain plastics are all new, considering the first steps were made back in 2018. At one of the town’s many town meetings, a community member, Bruce Mandel, proposed stricter rules and regulations regarding the production and distribution of single-use plastics on Nantucket. In his words, quoted in an article from Nantucket Magazine, “We just want Nantucket to be a safe place to grow up and live in terms of the water we use and drink.” This push was the true beginning of a formulated version of a plastic ban, and new amendments and changes have been made to the warrant since then as well.
Regarding the actual parameters of the ban, it began with the main restriction of single-use plastics. This entails packaging plastics, water bottles, straws, and plastic bags. But, plastic bags specifically are not included in this recent plastic ban due to the fact that they were actually part of a ban the community put forth in 1990. This was, as Graeme Durovich, the Recycling and Solid Waste Coordinator at the Department of Public Works states, “ahead of the curve,” and “something worth celebrating” when it comes to pushes for environmental protection on Nantucket. So, this is the explanation for those curious as to why plastic bags are not specifically included in the most recent plastic ban.
This past summer, the items under the restriction of production and distribution expanded to the main category of non-recyclable plastics, which went into effect on June 1, 2020. The drive behind broadening the parameters to this category was mainly to, as Durovich states, to enforce the “idea of switching to reusable.” This includes drinking cups and lids, plates and utensils, straws, and plastic water containers of one liter or less. As she points out, this does not mean that one would be punished for carrying a plastic water bottle or straw, but that the warrant prohibits community businesses from producing or distributing these products. An example of this is seen at local restaurants, where the owners have decided to switch from plastic to paper straws. This began before Mandel’s proposal, where a campaign spread throughout the restaurants to make the switch.
Durovich also emphasizes the importance of refillable water stations throughout the community, which can be seen on a map on the Town of Nantucket website. Some locations include Jetties Beach, the Dreamland Theatre, Dionis Beach, Surfside Beach, and many spots along the bike paths. Although some may say that boxed water is an easier alternative than carrying around a reusable water bottle, it is vital to understand that due to the materials used to make boxed water, these containers can not be recycled and broken down on Nantucket. So, these refillable stations are recommended as the best option when it comes to cutting down on non-recyclable plastics on the island.
Durovich says that it is hard to assess the success of the plastic ban at this point in time. It has been “hard to see trends since we are less than a year in,” but she believes that it has made a significant change worth acknowledging. When their team sorted through waste in the summer and fall, making only two total sorts, the percentages of non-recyclable plastics went down to nearly 0% from the summer months. This was a major success, considering the ban had been fairly lenient due to the current circumstances of the pandemic. As more people are vaccinated, Durovich and the team working on the plastic ban plan to strengthen the push for the restrictions as the spread of covid-19 hopefully reaches a much slower rate.
The emphasis on the plastic ban article in the Town Meeting Warrant lies in the importance of preserving the environment on the island, and one main way to do so is by using reusable products. All community members can do their part by using refillable water bottles and the stations distributed throughout the island. For more information regarding the ban, the Town of Nantucket website shows all the necessary information and many helpful resources for those who wish to do their part for the environment.