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Plastic Bag Ban in Darien?

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THE ISSUE:

"Paper or plastic?" It's a fairly innocuous question asked at checkout lines across the country. But here in Connecticut, that question may soon come with a price tag, as lawmakers consider adding a five-cent tax on all disposable shopping bags.

The "just say neither" trend is sweeping the nation, and cities including New York, Seattle and Philadelphia already charge a tax on plastic bags. Here in Connecticut, Westport became the first municipality in Connecticut to enact an outright ban in September of 2008, imposing a $150 fine on shop owners that distribute disposable bags. Wilton has long considered the ban, and the town's Board of Selectmen are due to revisit the idea within the next few months.

A similar proposal to add a nickel-per-bag tax to Connecticut shoppers' bills gained momentum in state Legislature last spring.

Those who endorse the plan say the bill would not only benefit the environment, but would also rake in upwards of $20 million to help fund environmental programs threatened by budget cuts.

Pressing budget issues are one of the reasons critics stand in opposition. Times of economic uncertainty are not times to impose new costs on consumers, they say. Furthermore, a nickel may not be incentive enough for customers to rethink their habits. Among those opponents is Governor M. Jodi Rell, who says incentives to encourage the reuse of bags are preferable to any new tax.

The bag-tax bill will died without a General Assembly vote in 2009, but with the acclaimed success of Westport's ban and the economy on the mend, legislators say they might reconsider the bill with more enthusiasm this year.

Where does Darien stand?

SELECTMEN ON PLASTIC BAG BAN:

David Campbell (R)

While I am very much in favor of making people aware of how small changes in our daily routines can have a large impact on our overall environment, I am not in favor of imposing an outright ban on paper bags. I believe the residents of Darien are intelligent, environmentally aware individuals who do their best to be considerate of the environment on a regular basis.

David Bayne (D)

I would be in favor of looking into ways for the Town to do more to promote the use of recyclable bags: to do something on a website, to encourage merchants to encourage their customers to use recycled bags, to be more proactive in educating people to not use plastic bags. But I think it's simply too intrusive to have an outright ban.

Jerry Nielsen (R)

I'm not in favor of banning plastic bags, but we all have to be conscious of the environment and we all have to be encouraged to recycle. I was on vacation at a place where you go to the dump and everything is recycled: the newspapers, the plastics—everything, all down the line; and there's someone actually there policing that. I'm not saying we go to that extreme, but we all have to be conscious of our environment and recycle when we can.

Jayme Stevenson (R)

I am not in favor of a ban on plastic bags. I am in favor of educating the community on the importance of using recyclable bags or reusing their plastic and paper bags. People are very well aware of the negative impact on our environment from plastic products ending up in our waste stream. However, I do not believe in imposing more rules and regulations that potentially create a burden either financially or from a regulatory perspective on our local merchants and government. I am an environmentalist at heart, and I strongly believe in recycling. Personally, I use my own recyclable bags whenever I got to the grocery store, and if I do ask for store bags, I reuse them at home for other things. I'm hopeful that my own practices serve as a positive role model for my kids and others.

Callie Sullivan (D)

Banning plastic bags would be a win-win for everyone in Darien. I use my Palmer's cloth bags everywhere I shop. It's not a big deal. Net bags are very small and portable as well. If we truly care about our children's future, the planet they are inheriting, and reducing the reliance the United States has on Petro chemicals; and if we care about how our town looks with plastic swirling garbage down our main street, we will take this important step and patronize the shops who give or sell cloth bags to their customers.

What are your thoughts on a plastic bag ban? The first four readers to comment below will receive a canvas Patch bag. Sign up, sign in, and post a comment. Then watch your email to see if you're one of four lucky winners.

Jamie DeLoma April 22, 2010 at 05:31 PM
Thanks, Cecelia. It's refreshing to see a media organization being proactive about saving the environment. Plus, you can never have too many recyclable bags.
Shawn St Jean April 22, 2010 at 05:39 PM
I completely agree with Callie on this issue and would absolutely support a ban on plastic bags. Westport has had great success with this since their ban went into effect over a year ago, without any uproar from the residents or retailers. I think our town is ready for it - I already see so many people in town with reusable bags at the grocery store. Just like the residents of Westport, we have a strong desire in Darien to protect the environment any way we can.
Cecelia Smith April 22, 2010 at 05:41 PM
And that's four! Thanks, Shawn. Keep the comments coming, Patchers.
Carolyn Bayne April 22, 2010 at 05:41 PM
I have been using my own shopping bags for 14 years and have noticed a significant increase in the number of shoppers with reusable bags since most supermarkets started selling them a few years ago. I also find that customers behind me in the check-out line with one or two items will often tell the clerk that they do not need a bag after seeing my things packed into a reusable bag. People say that the biggest reason they do not use reusable bags is that they forget them at home or in their car. Some stores now have large signs outside their doors reminding people to bring in their bags, and a local group, "Choose to Reuse in Darien" is now handing out clear business card-sized stickers that residents can place on the driver's side window of their car to remind them (for more info on this group and on plastic bags, go to choosetoreuseindarien.org). Now that reusable bags are widely sold and are inexpensive, a campaign to educate residents on the perils of disposable bags (plastic or paper) could have a big impact. I strongly support this educational endeavor over an outright ban or tax.
Tom Wilson May 07, 2010 at 02:32 AM
People rarely change their behavior without some incentive, positive or negative, and the people who use reusable shopping bags are among the small minority who actually do the right thing because...it's the right thing to do. Ban the bags. Not one person will stop shopping in Darien, and not one person will burn a pile of reusable bags in front of Town Hall in protest. The only thing likely to suffer is political cowardice.

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