Two competing bylaw proposals in Oak Bluffs this year may boil down to a difference of less than two thousandths of an inch.

Voters at the annual town meeting in April will decide whether to join every other Island town in adopting a ban on single-use plastic bags in checkout lines, as drafted by the Vineyard Conservation Society, or opt for a similar but less stringent ban drafted by members of the Oak Bluffs business community this year.

The VCS ban targets single-use plastic bags thinner than four thousandths of an inch, about the width of a human hair. Thinner bags without handles, such as those used for produce and bulk items, are exempt. Five Island towns adopted the bylaw by wide margins at their annual town meetings last year, with the Oak Bluffs selectmen delaying the vote in light of concerns by the business community.

The alternative bylaw this year includes similar provisions, but targets bags thinner than 2.5 thousandths of an inch. The proposal also allows for biodegradable and compostable plastic bags, and includes a provision for businesses to defer for up to a year at a time, with board of health approval.

Signe Benjamin, Joan Malkin, Samantha Look, Liz Witham, Nina Hitchen and Sakiko Isomichi of VCS. — Mark Lovewell

“Both proposals are in agreement that those little flimsy grocery bags, they are not appropriate anymore and we can do better,” said Todd Rebello, a retail business owner who advocated for delaying the question last year. “The difference in the two articles at this point is the business one takes into account the unintended consequences of going too far with a ban.”

The increased costs associated with the VCS proposal would likely eliminate the distribution of all single-use plastic bags in checkout lines, while the alternate proposal would allow businesses more flexibility.

After tabling the VCS proposal last year, the selectmen set up a committee that included business owners, town officials and VCS members to try to reach a compromise. But an agreement couldn’t be reached before the deadline for submitting town meeting articles by petition, and VCS dropped out of the process.

Selectman Gail Barmakian, who took part in the efforts, said the committee investigated municipal bag bans across the state, finding 20 others with a threshold of 2.5 thousandths of an inch, or 2.5 mils. “It’s much thicker than what we use now,” she said, adding that the bags would be less likely to blow away, and would cost less than those required under the VCS ban.

But VCS and others say a threshold of 2.5 mils would fall short of their goals for protecting the environment. “It would be a pretty invisible change,” said VCS staff member Samantha Look, arguing that businesses would end up using just as many plastic bags as before, and that customers would not be encouraged to change their behavior.

“The subset of businesses that have crafted this alternate [proposal] are very clear in the fact that they want to continue using plastic bags,” she said. She added that the Island lacks the appropriate infrastructure for handling compostable plastic bags, and that biodegradable plastic bags include unknown ingredients and require certain conditions to live up to their name.

Advocates of the new proposal emphasize its benefits to small business owners who may not be able to afford switching to paper or thicker plastic, and to day-trippers and others who may end up struggling with paper bags and spilled groceries.

“Most of these proposals are not aimed at mom and pop stores that are under 2,500 square feet,” Mr. Rebello said of other bans around the country. “Smaller businesses like my own don’t have the buying power of a Best Buy or a Walmart.” He said the added cost of paper or thicker plastic bags in Oak Bluffs would be passed on to the customer.

Plastic bag bans have spread rapidly across the state, growing from about 16 when VCS began drafting its proposal in 2015, to more than 40 this year. Ms. Look said 12 additional towns in the state would be voting on bans this spring, with Boston working on a proposal of its own. A statewide ban is also in the works.

Island health agents this week said the VCS ban has been rolling out smoothly, with down-Island towns issuing a number of one-year deferments so businesses can use up their existing stock. Edgartown has issued nine deferments, and Tisbury has issued four. Edgartown health agent Matt Poole said most of the deferments in his town related to paper bags, which under the VCS ban must be marked as recyclable and show the percentage of post-consumer recycled content. (The new proposal requires only the words “recyclable” or “please recycle.”)

Ms. Barmakian argued that Oak Bluffs is something of an outlier, with four different boatlines arriving every day in the summer, and the only non-chain grocery store on the Island. “It is very much a resort town, where there are lots of day people that are coming off the boats and may not be prepared,” she said.

Mr. Rebello noted that many day trippers are seniors or people who arrive on buses. “For us to give them paper, it’s not going to make it through the day,” he said. He also argued that without plastic bags, take-out restaurants would use more plastic and styrofoam containers, which could fill up trash barrels in town.

But others sought to put the business angle into perspective. Nina Carter, who lives in Oak Bluffs year-round and has been active in promoting the VCS initiative, including through a program at the town library this winter, said only a handful of businesses were now pushing for the alternate ban. “It’s definitely a minority,” she said.

She noted a perception in town that the VCS proposal had been imposed from outside, but she encouraged Oak Bluffs to get on board with the rest of the Island. “We are one Island, and the rest of the Island spoke clearly that they wanted a change,” she said. “I think that Oak Bluffs should be taking that into consideration as well.”

It’s unclear how the dueling proposals will play out at the town meeting, although town moderator Jack Law said this week that he would likely allow discussion of both articles, followed by a vote on the alternate proposal. If the motion carries, he said, the VCS proposal would be tabled indefinitely. Otherwise, it too would come to a vote.

Mr. Rebello said he didn’t expect very much debate at the town meeting, and he was confident that one of the two articles would pass.

“Plastic bag bans in most places are hard to stop,” he said. “But there are consequences and you have to discuss the consequences.”