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Nantucket’s Ban on Single-Use Plastics Officially Underway

Town of Nantucket

Nantucket’s ban of single-use plastics is officially underway.

"Single-use, petroleum-based plastic products" like plastic straws, drinking cups and lids, and non-recyclable coffee pods can no longer be commercially sold or distributed on the island. The flexible material used to bind cans and bottles in a six-pack is also banned.

Nantucket Town Manager, Libby Gibson, said the ban could massively improve the island’s environment.

"We find our beaches and other open areas littered with plastic products ... and there’s a lot of roadside plastic," she said.  "We’re hoping to reduce all of that for the good of everybody."

Around 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, and by 2050, some scientists predict there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean.

Since town meeting voted to adopt the controversial bylaw in 2018, the town has engaged in a major public outreach campaign to get businesses and residents ready for the change.

Going forward, Gibson said, the more the island can reduce what goes into the landfill, the better for taxpayers and the environment.

"We do hope to have a cleaner island and a more environmentally proper place to live that doesn’t harm wildlife and people and our water supply and add to the burden of our landfill," she said.

Gibson adds that because of the pressure the coronavirus pandemic has put on local businesses, the town will wait until the fall to enforce the ban, but hopes some will still try to use plastic-alternatives.

"We do understand that everybody, not just the town, is focused on the COVID-19 response and getting businesses back to business," she said, "so we don’t want to impede that either."

Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.