Darien plastic bag ban passes by overwhelming majority

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox

After eight months, proponents of a plastic bag ban in Darien had reason to celebrate Monday night at the RTM meeting after the resolution passed by an overwhelming vote of 86 in favor. Two RTM members were opposed to the ban and two abstained.
The ban has been the cause of a lot of debate and discussion in town for many months, with strong proponents and just as strong objectors. Many of those who objected were against the 10-cent charge that customers would be asked to pay for recycled paper bags.
In total, since October of 2018, approximately 150 letters were sent in to a designated RTM email box from individuals, businesses and organizations, in regard to the ordinance. Aside from the topic being discussed at numerous town meetings, two public hearings were held on the topic. Dozens of people spoke at them, including a large number of young people.
To date, Greenwich, Hamden, Mansfield, Norwalk, Stamford and Westport have all passed plastic bag bans.
Darien ordinance
The Ordinance for the Management of Plastic and Paper Checkout Bags, which was proposed by the environmental group BYO (Bring Your Own) Darien, phases out plastic bags of less than 12 mil thickness and requires a 10-cent charge for recycled paper bags, with the charge being retained by the retailer.
According to a revision by the RTM, stores under 10,000 square feet will permanently not be required to charge a 10-cent fee with the purchase of a paper bag. However, if they want to, they can.
The purpose of the ordinance, according to Monica McNally, chairman of the RTM Public Works Committee, “is to encourage residents to bring their own bags when they go shopping, to end the use of single use plastic bags, and to switch to paper bags that are 100% recyclable and made from at least 40% post-consumer recycled material.”
The ordinance will be enforced by an environmental officer appointed by the Board of Selectmen.
It will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. Beginning Jan, 1, 2021, no Darien store will provide single use plastic bags and all stores will offer only compliant re-useable and compliant paper bags.
State of Connecticut Plastic bag ban ordinance
On June 3, the Connecticut General Assembly also passed a plastic bag ordinance.
The Bill, 7424, was passed by the House and Senate and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. It requires retailers to charge a 10 cent tax on any single use plastic bag under 4 mil distributed, beginning Aug. 1. The tax is collected and retained by the state. All single use plastic bags will be banned beginning July 1, 2021.
The fee is expected to raise nearly $200 million by 2021, together with a tax on sugary beverages.
In September 2012, after an extended town campaign and a heated debate at the RTM, the plastic bag ban failed. While many RTM debates and votes are fairly uncontentious, the 2012 meeting included several speakers for and against, as well as three attempts to “call the question,” which ends the discussion and calls the vote. With only 82 RTM members in attendance, the proposal failed 36 to 46.