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The Boston Globe

West

Brookline girding for life after bans

Businesses in Brookline may be more prepared for a fast-approaching ban on disposable plastic bags than one on disposable polystyrene food and beverage containers.

Both take effect Dec. 1, and Alan Balsam, Brookline’s public health director, said the transition for the ban on disposable plastic bags is going more smoothly than he expected.

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The bag ban will affect as many as 90 larger retail stores, and Balsam said town officials are confident that the supermarkets and pharmacies are poised to comply by the deadline.

“I am very optimistic about the plastic bag ban,” said Balsam in an update to the Board of Selectmen last week. “I’ve got more questions about the polystyrene ban.”

Balsam said more than 350 local food service businesses will be affected by the ban on polystyrene food and beverage containers. The containers are frequently used for takeout food orders.

Town Meeting approved both bans last November, based on concerns that the products are not good for the environment.

While paper bags and reusable bags are acceptable alternatives to disposable plastic bags, Balsam said, some businesses are finding it more difficult to find alternatives for their polystyrene containers.

Balsam said alternative containers can be considerably more expensive for businesses, including psychiatric hospitals that don’t use real dishes because they could be used as weapons. Other businesses have large inventories of polystyrene containers and may not be able to find an appropriate replacement in time for Dec. 1.

Even some businesses that have taken big steps to comply with the local ban are still running into problems.

Dunkin’ Donuts has rolled out a new cup in Brookline to comply with the polystyrene ban, but Balsam said the company still hasn’t found a lid for the cups that will comply.

As a result of the complications, Balsam said, he expects Dunkin’ Donuts and other businesses to request waivers seeking additional time to comply with the ban.

He said he will probably grant such waivers to businesses struggling to comply with the ban for the first six months after the new bylaw takes effect, but obtaining another extension could be a more onerous process.

In the next few weeks, Balsam said, the town will be distributing more information about the bans to businesses, and will be holding several training sessions about them starting at the end of this month.

Brock Parker can be reached at brock.globe@gmail.com.
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