Letter: Consider impact on local Darien businesses if creating plastic bag ordinance

To the Editor:

My name is Erica Jensen and I have owned the Helen Ainson shop on the Post Road in Darien for the past 42 years. I am a high-end woman's clothing and accessory store. I use three sizes of shopping bags and 2 sizes of garment bags, one 54" for dresses, pants and jackets and one 72" long for evening gowns. All these bags are made of 4 mil plastic which are definitely reusable and very strong. They are made from recycled plastic (mainly recycled plastic bottles, as per my packaging representative) and they are recyclable and marked as such. All these bags are white with black polka dots with a yellow stripe above the name which is my trademark over the years.

Because they are so special, the cost to me is approximately $1 per bag. The minimum order is 2,000 pieces per style/size of the bags. I usually order 3,000 pieces per style of the bags because the price per bag goes down with every additional thousand that I order. Therefore, I have 1-3 years' worth of each size of bags in my garage worth many thousands of dollars.

I did not read anything in the proposed ordinance about allowing the retail stores to use up existing stock piles of bags on hand. This would be essential to me as I could not afford to replace these thousands of dollars of bags. More importantly, to throw these bags away would be environmentally ridiculous.

Secondly, I am a destination store. I have the majority of my customers coming from 30 minutes to one hour away to buy gowns and dresses for special occasions such as mothers of the bride and groom, bar mitzvahs, black tie occasions, the Oscars and White House dinners. If these customers purchase gowns or dresses in the price range of $500 to $2,500. I cannot see folding them into a reusable 12 mil bag, or paper bag.

I understand that the law in the town of Greenwich only allows the use of 12 mil bags which are the very heavy bags that look like fabric with a plastic coating. New Canaan looks like they are going to do the same. Westport, which was the first town in Connecticut to put in place the ban on single use plastic bags, allows the use of 2.25 mil bags. These bags are reusable without going to the extreme of 12 mil bags. Just as a bit of information the states of California, Oregon, Washington, and New York City all allow 1.75 mil bags in their established recycling laws.

I ask you to consider not only grocery stores. I think it is very logical that customers going to grocery stores, Walmart, Home Depot, CVS, pet supply stores and similar businesses could bring their 12 mil bag to carry their purchases home.

Women shopping in a fine clothing store, sometimes unexpectedly because they see something in the window, cannot be expected to bring their reusable bag to carry their items home. It would be cost prohibitive to hand out 12 mil bags. To use paper bags with the standard you are considering (40% post consumer paper) will cost me an additional 20% per bag. Again, I must repeat, my plastic bags are made from plastic water bottles and are recyclable. Above all else, I hope that you do not ban my 4 mil garment bags which are similar to dry cleaning bags but just a long lasting quality.

Please consider these facts when making your decisions and, whatever you decide, please allow businesses to finish using existing stock piles of their bags.

Erica Jensen

Owner of Helen Ainson