Environmental Oversight Committee

The Environmental Oversight Committee met in the Popponesset Meeting Room on Wednesday.

Environmental issues quashed at October Town Meeting will likely be before Mashpee voters again in 2020.

Mashpee’s environmental oversight committee is looking to breathe new life into the proposed straw and polystyrene bans rejected last month, as well as introduce a balloon ban at Town Meetings in 2020.

During its November 13 meeting, the committee discussed adding language to make exceptions to the straw ban for people with disabilities and possibly narrowing the scope of the polystyrene ban to only include expanded polystyrene, better known as Styrofoam.

At October Town Meeting, the straw ban failed after Mashpee resident Pamela McCarthy asked that the town take the time to find a “solution that takes into account the needs of the disabled community.”

Ms. McCarthy noted at Town Meeting that people with disabilities, motor control issues, or swallowing issues “actually need the [plastic] straws to be able to take in nutrients, to be able to drink hot or cold drinks or soup, or to take their medicine.”

Chairwoman of the EOC and assistant conservation agent Katelyn Cadoret said that including language in the bylaw allowing businesses to keep a limited amount of plastic straws on hand for those who request them could make the plastic straw ban successful in 2020.

Ashley Fisher, Mashpee’s shellfish constable and a member of the EOC, noted that Chatham’s plastic straw ban bylaw includes a stipulation to allow businesses to provide plastic straws to those who ask.

While no official action was taken, Ms. Cadoret suggested that narrowing the scope of the polystyrene ban could help the measure pass when it is before voters again.

“I think scaling it back to expanded polystyrene for now is probably the best way forward,” she said.

The polystyrene ban failed 132 to 98 in October after Mark Lawrence, the owner of the Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlor, raised issue with the potential effects to businesses.

At Town Meeting, Mr. Lawrence stated that he was for protecting the environment but that inexpensive alternatives that work as well as polystyrene could be difficult to find, raising prices for his business or his customers.

The EOC voted unanimously to invite Mr. Lawrence to discuss the polystyrene ban with the committee at an upcoming meeting.

Looking at how other towns have implemented polystyrene or Styrofoam bans could help the committee present the public with useful information, Ms. Cadoret said.

Asking “Has this been overall negative or positive or neutral for your business?” to businesses in towns where such polystyrene or Styrofoam bans are in place could provide a picture of the potential effects of the ban, she said.

“Anecdotally speaking, it sounds like most people are in favor of it,” in towns where a Styrofoam ban has been implemented, Ms. Cadoret said from her research thus far.

While some minor complaints have been raised about the sippy cup lids or paper cups replacing plastic straws and Styrofoam in towns with bans, Ms. Cadoret said that there seems to be “a general consensus that its been well-received by most of the customers at these establishments.”

Virginia Scharfenberg, the president of Mashpee Environmental Coalition, who was present at the EOC meeting, said that, when it comes to compostable and reusable products “demand will develop, especially if you legislate it.”

“The business people are going to need to find good products and there’s going to be good competition in developing them,” Ms. Scharfenberg said.

A ban on balloons that could help to limit plastics from contaminating the environment could present another opportunity for voters to pass environmentally conscientious legislation at upcoming Town Meetings.

The EOC voted unanimously to submit a balloon ban article to the selectmen for May Town Meeting, though the exact language has not yet been determined.

A similar ban is proposed on the state level by state Representative Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown) which could ban the sale, distribution and release of any type of balloon, excluding weather balloons or hot air balloons.

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