Bags are back: Selectmen discuss plastic bag ordinance
Banning the use of plastic bags was a hot topic at Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson made a motion to “move the discussion and potential creation of an ordinance banning the single use plastic bags to the RTM [Representative Town Meeting],” she said.
All board members were in favor of this motion.
She added, however, that there are parts of the proposed ordinance that she’s against.
For one, she said she doesn’t agree with the hiring of personnel to enforce a plastic bag ordinance.
“I don't know how we will achieve enforcement of a plastic bag ordinance or the enforcement of the regulations proposed that paper bags have a specific recyclable content,” she said.
She further said retailers should have some latitude in the different products that they provide customers.
With a show of hands, about half a dozen residents were in favor of the proposed ordinance.
During public comment, Juliet Cain of BYO (Bring Your Own!) Darien said plastic bags are causing harm to the environment.
“We are waiting for the results of testing by the Sound Waters organization as to the presence of microplastics in the Sound,” she said. “Regardless of the results of these tests, the mere fact that they’re necessary is cause enough for alarm.”
Currently, Greenwich, Stamford, Weston, and Westport have implemented a ban on plastic bags.
Cain said the BYO is not proposing a tax on recycled paper bags. Rather, “we are proposing a charge that would be retained by the retailer. The charge is critical in order to not put on other businesses a competitive disadvantage to those national chains that can afford to give paper away.”
She said this is a “proven effective mechanism to remind people to bring their own bags.”
Selectman Kip Koons, however, said he is not in support of the proposed ordinance.
“Most of the stuff in the Pacific Ocean came from the Far East, not America,” he said. “There is so much exaggerations and discussions out there that are not based on reality. This is not that big a problem, especially when we are looking at savings.”
Koons added that Darien is “going to be hard pressed” on its next budget cycle to maintain the quality of life in Darien “with the diminishing amount of money we are getting from the state.”
“I just don't see it, this isn’t that big of an issue in the world we are looking at today,” Koons said.
In 2012, a group in Darien called Choose to Reuse campaigned hard for the RTM to ban plastic bags. The debate was contentious but in a sparsely attended RTM meeting, the proposal to ban plastic bags was defeated by a 36 to 46 vote.
Each RTM committee that presented its findings to the body at that meeting indicated that each committee had voted against the proposed ordinance, but each committee vote was within one vote of going the other way, with the exception the Finance & Budget Committee, which only had four members show up for an informal vote, as they lacked a quorum.
Opponents of the ban at that time cited concerns that the ordinance was government overreach, that plastic bags in the environment was not a problem in Darien, and that the ordinance was more of a feel-good maneuver that lacked any real potential to achieve change.