Tisbury voters will be able to weigh in on plastic bottle ban

Special town meeting warrant reopened after submission deadline to include plastic free bylaw.


Voters will once again have a chance to vote on a ban of plastic bottles at an upcoming special town meeting, after selectmen reversed a decision made earlier in the week. 

Selectmen called an unusual Friday afternoon meeting after members of the group Plastic Free MV showed up at Tisbury Town Hall on Wednesday holding protest signs and seeking to convince the board to put the proposed bylaw back on the March 31 warrant. In a move that surprised the students, selectmen removed it at a meeting on Monday as they finalized warrants for special and annual town meeting.

Instead of supporting the plastic bottle ban, selectmen suggested a different approach that would set up an action plan to reduce plastic use over time, instead of creating a mandatory restriction.

But at Friday’s meeting, selectmen agreed to reopen the March 31 special town meeting warrant and place the bottle ban bylaw back on for the public to weigh in on. 

Melinda Loberg, chair of the board of selectmen, said at the meeting that the Island community agrees on the issue of plastics in the environment and she is proud to see young people making their voices heard.

“I think we all agree on the problem of plastics in our environment and the damage they do. I appreciate the fact that we are being led to solutions by the upcoming generation of leaders,” Loberg said.

According to Loberg, there are some “flaws” in the bylaw, but she said these can be easily remedied through continued conversation ahead of the special town meeting.

Selectman Jeff Kristal took much of the responsibility for the removal of the proposed bylaw from the warrant, but said he wants to promote improvements in the community, not deter them.

“I love Tisbury and I care about it deeply. I want to be able to help people, it’s why we are here on this board. I want to be the person who helps get things done, I certainly don’t want to be an obstacle to change,” Kristal said.

Kristal’s explanation for removing the article was that he thought creating an action plan would allow for more conversation between town boards and members of the public.

“By placing our own plastic mitigation bylaw on the warrant, we wanted to open the opportunity for more discussion. We wanted to plan and not ban,” Kristal said.

One fundamental problem that Kristal identified in Tisbury is effective communication. He acknowledged the fact that selectmen should have reached out to Plastic Free and proponents of the bylaw before removing it. 

“We should have reached out to the proponents of this bylaw and notified them that we would possibly be removing it, that’s on me,” Kristal said.

Selectman Jim Rogers was absent.

At the end of the meeting, selectmen were met with applause from the audience, and words of appreciation from members of Plastic Free.

“Thank you for reconsidering,” Plastic Free member Runar Finn Robinson said. “This issue is important to us, to the public, and to the planet. You said there are some wording issues, I am sure we will be able to work that out before the town meeting.”

Pushing for reconsideration

On Wednesday, the students entered the town hall and eventually were able to speak with town administrator Jay Grande. Despite executive assistant Alexandra Kral saying there was little chance of the warrant being reopened because it had already been approved and signed, Grande said there was a possibility of reopening the warrant and placing the bylaw back in as an article, and the town’s legal counsel confirmed this. 

Grande also informed students that they could petition for a special town meeting, for which they would need at least 200 signatures from members of the public endorsing the meeting. West Tisbury school teacher and head organizer for Plastic Free, Annemarie Ralph, said that the kids wanted to be prepared in case selectmen did not place their bylaw back on the warrant.

“We threatened them with a town meeting, and I think that worked,” Ralph said.

On Friday, members of Plastic Free MV stopped by The Times newsroom and were already within a few signatures of forcing a special town meeting. Robinson said the group already has several hundred signatures, and are looking to finish strong with 300 signatures on the petition.

The students of Plastic Free MV have been working since the beginning of 2019 to convince Island towns to ban the sale of single-use plastic water and soda bottles 34 ounces and under, in order to reduce plastic pollution.

All three up-Island towns have passed the bylaw and are beginning to implement and enforce it in retail stores. After shifting their attention to down-Island towns, both Edgartown and Oak Bluffs agreed to place the bottle ban bylaw on their town meeting warrants.

Students in Plastic Free said it was unfair of selectmen to remove the warrant article without previously notifying the group.


  1. I think stuff like this is a good idea! However, we do live on a tourist island, how would that effect that? Maybe adding recyclable garbage barrels, just like the barrels in Boston..they open like a mailbox so people won’t be able to use the barrels for they home trash.

  2. I hope that Tisberry, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown voters see this poorly drafted by law for what it is. It lacks enforceability and most likely result in larger amounts of plastic being shipped to the island from online retailers as people buy more than they would necessarily need. It does nothing to educate people at our points of entry as they come to the island for a visit. It has failed to consider the impact of more expensive alternatives products that are less readily available in relation to our elderly population living here on fixed incomes. And finally it simply shifts the environmental impact from one product to another. Make a PLAN not a ban.

  3. Instead of immediately going after extremely important water, liquid medicine etc that come in plastic bottles / container products try first getting rid of Game boy toys, era buds, I-phones, literately dozens of your home entertain appliances, landline phones, laptops on and on. The main thing humans cannot absolutely go without with even for a short period of time is “WATER, MEDICINE” and having a convenient way to get, transport and store it is imperative!
    I could not agree more “Make a PLAN not a ban” and plan to attack another front ~ maybe proper recycling and proper pickups for all those products.
    Please think about is over your summer vacation and come back with a better more logical plan for when you get to MVRHS.

  4. Education and public awareness is the first part to a successful plan. I would start with a PSA on both the steamship authority, at the airport by baggage claim and on the VTA buses. A minute and a half PSA that encourages people not to choose plastic while visiting here on the island or to bring it with them. To alternatively choose less environmentally damaging products. Then I would assemble the businesses island wide and encourage the businesses to collectively approach the suppliers, Coke, Pepsi, IFP, Cash and Carry, Tropicana as well as others, as opposed to individually and request other products than plastic packaged ones. Then I would pressure State Rep Fernandez to reach out to US Congresswoman Katherine Clark, who’s from Massachusetts, and who is working on legislation at the Federal level to force the change we need through pressure on manufacturing and suppliers. That’s a PLAN not a ban and it is the direction we need to take to affect real change.

  5. Time to dust off the Tisbury jukebox for the BOS:
    Cause you’re hot then you’re cold
    You’re yes then you’re no
    You’re in then you’re out
    You’re up then you’re down
    You’re wrong when it’s right…

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