Plastic bag ban reaches Environmental Protection Commission

Stephen McKay photo

The push for a ban on plastic bags in Darien continues to make headway, as proponents met with the Environmental Protection

Commission to discuss how the ban would be enforced, should it pass the Representative Town Meeting.

Nina Miller, RTM District 2 representative and a founding member of Choose to Reuse, the environmental group spearheading the plastic bag ban, told the commission at its Wednesday, Aug. 1, meeting, that there have been some misconceptions about the ban she would like to clear up.

“We’re not against paper or plastic,” Miller said. “We’re about reusable bags.”

Miller said if the ordinance passed, retailers would have six or nine months to use their remaining bag inventory before the rule would go into effect. She also added that enforcement would generally rely on people notifying the town if a retailer was using plastic bags.

“All you need is a telephone number for someone to call and say, ‘So and so is still using plastic bags,’ and someone can go out and explain to them the situation,” Miller said, adding that she could be that point person if it were legal.

It was originally suggested that the town health department handle the enforcement, although First Selectman Jayme Stevenson suggested the environmental commission also involve itself in enforcement.

The ban passed the Board of Selectmen last year but it has yet to make it to the floor of the RTM for a vote. Deepika Saksena, RTM District 1 representative and Choose to Reuse co-founder, said she expects the RTM to vote on the proposal at its Sept. 24 meeting.

However, the Town Government Structure & Administration Committee still hasn’t voted on the measure, which needs to happen before the RTM votes. This committee meets on Tuesday, Sept. 11. The environmental commission meets the week prior, on Sept. 5.

Most commission members said they support the ban, although Chairman Michael Tone, who was absent at the Aug. 1 meeting, has expressed concern in the past regarding the specifics of the ordinance.

Miller said other communities that have banned plastic bags have expressed similar concerns that Darienites have vocalized, such as people who like to use plastic bags to line small trash bins and to pick up pet waste. Miller said most of these complaints were mitigated quickly as people found alternative means to line trash cans and pick up waste.

Greg Palmer, owner of Palmer’s Market, had explained how an ordinance could negatively affect his bottom line by increasing his bag costs.

Choose to Reuse has circulated petitions throughout the community and at RTM meetings supporting the ordinance. If the measure fails the RTM, proponents will not have an opportunity to overturn the decision via referendum, according to Wayne Fox, town counsel.

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