DARIEN — In an upsurge of national and international concern regarding the use of plastic, local environmental groups in town are planning to ride the wave.

Laura Pesce-Gray and Paola Sordini, co-chairwomen of the Darien Environmental Group, and Julia Zachowski, president of Friends of Gorham’s Pond, are some of the residents raising awareness about the use of plastic and its impact in town.

“We discovered that plastic bags, the thin ones under 12 mils (a thousandth of an inch), cannot be recycled, and so they’re being bundled up and burnt in Bridgeport,” Zachowski said. “We’re breathing burnt plastic, and that’s just terrifying. It’s time we sat up and took responsibility for our convenience.”

Zachowski said she learned a local store in town uses 18,000 plastic bags a week.

“Bring Your Own Bag, Darien,” another initiative focusing on the plastic issue, encourages residents to switch to reusable bags when they shop.

“The emphasis is on bringing your own bag,” resident Juliet Cain said. “As you educate people, you realize this isn’t just limited to bags, it’s broader than that.”

More Information

To learn about the Darien Environmental Group, visit: http://darienenvironmentalgroup.org/index.html

To learn about Bring Your Own Bag, Darien, visit: https://byodarien.org/

To learn about the Ocean Conservancy Pledge, visit: https://oceanconservancy.org/trash-free-seas/outreach-education/skip-the-straw/

An initiative that sought to ban plastic bags in town was voted down by the Representative Town Meeting in 2012, but the environmental group said several steps need to be taken before that goal is reached.

“We’re trying to go through the schools and speak with businesses in town over the summer to try to get them to understand our thinking of how we can reduce bag waste,” Zachowski said. “There’s clearly a national groundswell on this, whether it’s caps, bottles or straws.”

For Earth Week in April, the DEG led an educational initiative throughout the town’s five elementary schools called “Break the Bag Habit.”

“This was the first time we had the same theme for all five elementary schools,” Sordoni said.

Advocates are hoping an upcoming competition between Darien and neighboring New Canaan will raise awareness of environmental issues.

The DEG is seeking student and youth groups from both towns to spread the word about the Ocean Conservancy Pledge’s “Skip the Straw” effort, and encourage local businesses to participate.

“This is the start of the competition between New Canaan and Darien,” Sordoni said. “We’re trying to get businesses to skip the straw.”

With many gears turning, the environmentalists recognize these initiatives are about small, everyday choices that ultimately have a large impact.

“We all come from different backgrounds,” Cain said. “But we’re stronger than the sum of our parts.”