New Darien group hopes to reduce plastic bag use

BYO Darien is a new initiative encouraging Darien residents to “Bring Your Own” reusable bags when shopping to help the environment by reducing the consumption of plastic bags. Organizers for the local initiative took note of legislation in Greenwich and Westport limiting the use of plastic bags and are encouraging the town to take a proactive stance on the issue.

The use of plastic shopping bags has come under national scrutiny as communities recognize that the bags cannot be recycled and take decades to decompose. The increased presence of plastic waste has been shown to have a negative impact on marine life and has been tied to higher rates of serious diseases.  

Westport’s town ordinance, implemented in 2008, completely prevents the use of single-use plastic bags at checkout, limiting retailers to recyclable paper bags instead of plastic. Greenwich passed a similar ordinance in March 2018 that will officially come into effect in September. Greenwich considered including a 23 cent fee for each recyclable bag provided by retailers, but the town’s RTM removed the fee from the ordinance and placed a three-year term on the ban. Stamford’s Board of Representatives is considering a limit on plastic bag use as well.

BYO Greenwich, another local advocate group, helped propose and promote the recyclable bag ordinance with the help of Greenwich High School students. In 2012, Choose to Reuse, a group lead primarily by Darien High School students, successfully petitioned more than 2,000 signatures for a plastic bag ban. However, the movement failed to pass the Representative Town Meeting, falling with a 46 to 36 vote.

BYO Darien said it will have a different approach by reaching out to businesses as well as residents to raise awareness and ultimately collaborate on a plan to eliminate the use of plastic bags. BYO Darien is currently offering educational sessions to help residents understand the long term impact of disposable plastic bags on the environment. Additionally the group is meeting with local businesses to understand the cost impacts and demand for disposable bags in town.

“We are aware of the effort that took place in 2012 and we also understand the reasons why it failed,” a statement from BYO Darien reads. “Today, six years later, there is a mountain of scientific evidence on the harmful impact of plastic bags to the environment and our health. We also differentiate ourselves from the initiative in 2012 because we are starting a dialogue with business first. We want to understand business needs/concerns and have an opportunity to create a program that fits our community needs.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States uses 380 billion plastic bags and wraps each year. California is the only state with a full ban on single-use plastic bags, though Washington, D.C., and several other major cities have implemented their own bans as well. More than 100 municipalities nationwide have their own ordinances regarding disposable plastic bags.