Darien plastic bag ban a step closer to reality
DARIEN — The days of plastic bag usage in Darien may be numbered.
The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted Monday to move an ordinance pitched by Bring Your Own Bag Darien to the Representative Town Meeting. If approved by the RTM, the ordinance would go into effect.
“I’d like to hear the public debate and I’m willing to support an ordinance to ban single-use plastic bags in the town of Darien,” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said.
In August 2014, California became the first state to enact legislation imposing a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at large retail stores, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Connecticut, Westport was the first to ban the bags outright in 2008, following the lead of several cities in California.
Some parts of Darien’s ordinance are still being questioned. Stevenson said the ordinance must have zero financial impact on Darien from a tax perspective. Previously there were discussions around how the ordinance could be enforced, and whether a position should be created by the town to oversee it.
“I don’t agree with the hiring of personnel to enforce a plastic bag ordinance,” Stevenson said.
One of the key components presented by BYOB Darien was a charge on recycled paper check-out bags that would be retained by retailers. Juliet Cain, co-chairwoman of BYOB Darien, said the charge was important.
“The charge is critical in order to not put our local businesses at a competitive disadvantage,” Cain said.
Smaller stores could face financial difficulty making the switch to recycled paper bags. She said the charge was also an effective mechanism to remind people to bring their own bags.
Cain said research shows the financial costs on the time spent enforcing a charge retained by the retailer is minimal.
The charge, while viewed as important by the environmental group, was one of the key components questioned by the board. Since it wasn’t a tax the town could collect, the board didn’t see how the town could be responsible for enforcing it by creating a new town employee.
“Our taxpayers shouldn’t shoulder one penny of financial burden to help people change their behavior,” Stevenson said.
Pamela Sparkman, member of the board, said splitting the ordinance into two separate issues could help the group to not lose their momentum.
“We’ve seen other communities have their RTM lead the way and offer it in a two-fold proposal,” Sparkman said.
One ordinance would have the bags banned and another could be proposed for whether or not there is a charge put in place, she said.
Stevenson said the initiative should really be led at the state level. Local level governments should not have to create individual ordinances that all vary for this issue. She said if Darien bans plastic bags, she doesn’t want to go to Norwalk and continue to get 12,000 plastic bags at Walmart.
“I hope Norwalk follows suit or that someday the state of Connecticut takes on the responsibility of leveling the playing field among the municipalities,” Stevenson said.