New group pushes plastic bags ban
DARIEN — A new activist group has taken the first formal step in making Darien the third Fairfield County town to ban plastic bags.
BYO Darien presented a proposal for an ordinance to phase out plastic and nonrecycled paper check-out bags to the Board of Selectmen on Monday.
“We (BYO Darien) are all concerned Darien residents about the single-use waste, particularly plastic waste, that Darien generates every single day,” said Lucia Zachowski, co-chairwoman of the group.
The ordinance would phase out the use of single-use plastic bags in favor of reusable bags. Greenwich and Westport have passed similar ordinances, Zachowski said. Westport implemented its ordinance in 2008 and Greenwich’s will officially go into effect in September.
“In today’s society there’s straws, bags, cups, bottles and we’ve decided to take on plastic bags first,” Zachowski said.
The proposed ordinance would be a six-month phase-out of plastic check-out bags less than 12 millimeters in thickness and nonrecycled check-out bags. At the end of the six-month phase-out, only reusable and 40 percent recycled paper check-out bags would be available to customers.
Retailers who have contracted to purchase large supplies of nonconforming bags prior to the ordinance would have their contracts presented to a town officer for review. The retailers would have up to two
years to comply with the ordinance.
Paolo Sordini, co-chairman of BYO Darien, said the organization has also done community outreach. During Earth Week in April, the group reached out to all seven schools to raise awareness.
“We are trying to educate the community,” Sordini said. “We’re not just going to go and impose. We’re going to tell them why this is a necessary step for society.”
The ordinance would allow businesses to offer recycled check-out bags with a charge and sell reusable bags.
“We have asked local businesses for their input. We understand it’s a financial consideration on their part,” Sordini said. “Surprisingly, most of the businesses in town already have paper bags.”
Juliet Cain, a co-chairwoman of BYO Darien, said the group would propose a nominal charge of around 10 cents for recycled paper bags. They proposed the charge be obligatory to level the playing field for small businesses.
“The charge would serve as a reminder to people to bring their reusable bags,” she said. “It’s an incentive. We don’t think it’s punitive.”
The charge would be retained by the retailer and is not meant to be a tax, Cain said.
“It’s an interesting thing. I don’t know if there’s an example I can think of with a municipality-enforced fee retained by a business,” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said.
The selectmen expressed concern about how businesses would be held compliant and if there should be reports. Town Administrator Kate Buch said the town will have to find out if they have the authority to enforce this fee.
Stevenson said she would do her homework by talking to Wheelabrator in Bridgeport — where Darien’s waste is disposed — and speak with the town’s health director.
“What you’re stating is a public health issue, and that’s very concerning to all of us on the Board of Selectmen,” Stevenson said. “We want to make sure we understand the magnitude of that issue if it, in fact, does exist.”
The Board of Selectmen must approve the ordinance before it can head to the Representative Town Meeting. A date has not been set for the matter to be discussed by the selectmen.