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Portsmouth High School students fight delay of city plastics ban

Time:2020-12-19     Author:Assi【Original】   Read

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PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth High School’s Eco Club has created a petition to fight a delay in implementing a city ban on plastic bags, the latest in a string of climate-conscious moves the young group has taken toward eliminating single-use disposables in the city.

Abigail Herrholz, president of the high school’s Eco Club, decided to take a stand after Portsmouth City Council voted 5-4 Monday, Dec. 7 to delay the implementation of ordinances banning single-use plastic bags on city property, as well as a city-wide mandate against polystyrene foam, commonly referred to as Styrofoam. Both bans were planned to effect Dec. 31 this year, and the council will have to vote one more time to finalize the delay until Dec. 31, 2022.

“We were disappointed that they were moving in that direction but we were happy that it was a very close decision,” Herrholz said. “So we are currently trying to make efforts to explain why we think the ban should stay as it is currently and begin at the end of December.”

Drafted by former Portsmouth City Councilor Josh Denton, the two ordinances were passed by the former City Council in October 2019, a meeting in which some members of the Portsmouth High School Eco Club attended while wearing heaps of plastic bags over their clothing.

Mayor Rick Becksted proposed the two-year delay, citing a need for businesses and the city to focus on the coronavirus pandemic.

Herrholz said the Eco Club sides with Councilor Cliff Lazenby’s counter motion to have city staff enforce the ordinance against plastic bags on a limited basis until Dec. 31, 2021, offering a written warning to violators instead of full enforcement.

“Delaying the ban exacerbates the problem by allowing for more plastic build-up. There has been a proposed plan to only delay the ban enforcement until December 31st, 2021,” Herrholz’ petition states. “A majority of surveyed PHS Students (71.8%) support the enforcement delay, but not delaying the ban. Action needs to be taken now!”

Herrholz said she and other Eco Club members will continue to promote the petition as well as write electronic letters to the City Council through the city website, with some club participants planning to speak before the council during its Monday, Dec. 21 meeting before third and final reading of the proposed delay.

Eco Club member Ben Doyle spoke passionately about the delay of the bans at the Monday, Dec. 7 council meeting, saying, “"This issue demands immediate action. Science agrees that we must act now, in the interest of our city, our residents, and our future."

Nancy Pearson, a former Portsmouth city councilor, signed the petition and wrote in the comments, “I want to support the next generation of leaders who will really be on the front lines of climate change.”

At the Dec. 7 meeting, Becksted, Councilor Esther Kennedy, Councilor Petra Huda, Councilor Peter Whelan and Councilor Paige Trace voted to delay the enforcement of the ordinances until late 2022. Assistant Mayor Jim Splaine, Councilor Cliff Lazenby, Councilor Deaglan McEachern and Councilor John Tabor voted against the delay.

Herrholz is hopeful she and her peers will make a difference ahead of Monday’s third reading, arguing a delay on the ban would mean the younger generation will be burdened by the steep task of reversing the course of climate change.

To do so, Portsmouth needs to continue steps to continue becoming an eco-municipality, she said.

“We want to keep moving in that direction to stop climate change as soon as possible because it is our future and we’re looking forward to our kids and our jobs and growing up, and we don’t want them to grow up in a world of plastic,” Herrholz said of future generations. “We want them to live in the same type of world and greenery that we grew up in.”

Late in the week, Herrholz’ petition had 192 signatures, eight short of the club’s 200-signature goal.

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