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State wide Single Use Shopping Bag Ban reaches the Connecticut State Senate

The joint environmental committee of the Connecticut General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Single Use Shopping Bag Ban.  Senate Bill 349, introduced by the joint environment committee, co-chaired by Senators James Albis and Ted Kennedy has been submitted for a vote to the state senate.  If approved by the senate, the bill will be sent to the house for a vote and subsequently it will go to Governor Malloy for his signature. To review a summary of the bill, click here.

Your help is needed to ensure that it is successful every step of the way. Please email your senators  and ask them to support SB 349!

For details on how to contact your Senator, click here.


Proposed State Wide Single Use Plastic Bag Ban in Connecticut

Representative James Albis and Senator Teddy Kennedy Jr., Co-Chairs of the joint CT Environmental Committee, have submitted a  bill to ban plastic bags in the state of Connecticut.  The public hearing for this proposed bill will be on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015, beginning at 10:30 am. 

Choose To Reuse is organizing a contingent from Darien who can testify at the hearing or can submit a testimony via email.  Please contact us at choosetoreuseindarien@gmail.com for more information. Alternatively, you can submit a written testimony to jared.savas@cga.ct.gov the environment committee clerk.

Because of the breadth of the proposal, we are aiming for positive constructive criticism (i.e., we want to hear “I support reducing plastic bag usage because…and here are my thoughts on how to improve this bill”)

Please understand that it is important to be there in person on Jan. 30, but if that is not possible, submitting written testimony is the best alternative.

Reach out to people you know who are supporters and send them this information and link.

Stay tuned for more on this bill!!!


Second Annual Reusable Bag Design Contest

Bag Design ContestIn celebration of Earth Week 2013 Choose to Reuse of Darien announces our second annual reusable  bag design contest.

One winning design from each elementary school will be chosen and bags printed for sale in schools and town. We encourage the designers to include the name of their school and their name as well, if desired.

All designs  must be submitted to each school’s main office by the end of the school day on Friday April 26th.

A winner will be announced Monday April 29th and bags available for sale on Friday May 3rd.

Purchasing opportunities will be announced through the school email newsletters.

 Good Luck and Happy Earth Week!

RTM shoots down plastic bag ban in Darien

Despite strong efforts by Choose to Reuse, vote fails 36 to 46

By David DesRoches on September 25, 2012 in BusinessConnecticutTown Government · 0 Comments

Darien Times/Doug Smith cartoon

In one of the closest votes, and contentious debates, in recent RTM history, the proposal to ban plastic bags was defeated by a 36 to 46 vote on Monday night. But if more RTM members showed up to vote, the results could have been different, as only 78 people voted when the town charter allows for 100 people to be on the RTM.

Each RTM committee that presented their findings to the body 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.

Seven RTM members spoke against the ordinance, and eight spoke out in favor. Nine members of the public, including Selectman David Bayne, spoke in support of the ordinance. Democratic RTM member Tony Imbimbo made a motion to suspend the rules of order and allow two high school students to speak, and his motion was supported unanimously by the RTM.

High Schools students Finley Wetmore and Meighan Grady spoke in support of the ordinance.

“I have been told my whole life that making the right choice is not always the easy choice,” said Finely, who is a freshman at Darien High School. “Making good, responsible choices can be hard, it can take you out of your comfort zone, but making a good choice is still important… We have a duty to preserve and protect and love this Earth. It’s not about politics or economics, but it’s about our world as we know it.”

Each RTM committee also presented a minority report, which was succeeded by thunderous applause by a packed town hall meeting room. Only one non-RTM member, Chris Noe, former RTM member and first selectman candidate, spoke in opposition to the ban.

The debate raged on despite three separate motions to call the question, which is RTM-speak to stop the debate and vote on the proposal at hand. But all three times, a two-thirds majority failed to uphold the motion, which is similar to what happens in Congress when a two-thirds majority is needed to end a filibuster.

Moderator Karen Armour did her best to move the debate along, and urged speakers to keep their comments to three minutes and to only speak if they were saying something that had not yet been said.

The debate began with chairman of the Public Works Standing Committee, David Kahn, revealed claims made by proponents of the ordinance, which sought to ban the use of plastic retail bags of the like used at grocery stores in Darien, and whether these claims would have any impact on public works.

Kahn and other members of his committee visited the Wheelabrator incinerator in Bridgeport where all municipal solid waste from Darien goes to burn and generate electricity, and Kahn said he doubted the plastic bags burned there were adding any detriments to the environment. He also said he estimated the town tossed around 15,000 pounds of these plastic bags, which constituted a small fraction of the 10 million pounds burned each year from Darien trash, and that recycling the plastic bags is a source of revenue for the town as City Carting pays $15 per ton of recyclables.

Opponents of the ban 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.

Some commented on how, despite the outcome of the vote, the ordinance was a perfect example of democracy in action. Jim Cameron, RTM District 4 representative who is also a columnist for The Times, voted against the ordinance but applauded Choose to Reuse for their efforts, which included gathering signatures from roughly 2,300 residents in support of the ban.

“I love democracy,” Cameron said. “I’m so glad this issue has come before this body.”

Proponents of the ban still advocate the use of reusable bags, and have said they will continue their education campaign regardless of the RTM vote.

News Channel 8, September 24th, 2012

Town to vote on plastic shopping bag ban

Updated: Monday, 24 Sep 2012, 11:09 PM EDT
Published : Monday, 24 Sep 2012, 3:42 PM EDT

Update: According to the Darien First Selectwoman, the proposed plastic bag ban failed in Monday night’s vote by 36-46.

DARIEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Plastic shopping bags could soon be banned from one Connecticut Town.

Depending on how Darien leaders vote tonight, the town could be saying goodbye to plastic shopping bags.

“I think it’s a good idea and I think the stores should get behind it,” said Amanda England, Beadz Boutique, “and I think the more people who get behind it the better it is for the whole community, the planet, everything. It’s just one step at a time.”

If the ban passes, the environmentally-unfriendly bags would be banned from stores.

“We have enough bags and they just all end up in the ocean,” said Joan Simpson, Double Exposure, “look at the spot now, they say it’s the size of Texas.”

However, there are some who say it should be a personal choice, not a government mandate.

“From my perspective an ordinance is inappropriate because we don’t have a local problem,” said First Selectwoman Jayme Stevenson.

The goal is to encourage folks to re-use their own bags, but for those who don’t, stores would have to have paper bags on hand and that’s what she’s worried about.

“There is a local, family-owned business who would be dramatically and negatively affected by the financial impact of not being able to provide low cost plastic bags and have to provide more paper bags if people don’t bring their own,” Stevenson said.

One store owner tells News 8 it would cost him about four times as much to have paper bags over plastic. Others say it’s money well-spent.

“It’s part of a momentum that’s coming across the country already and we’re behind the curve ball,” said Beth Harmon, Darien resident.

If Darien passes the ordinance it would become the second town in the state to ban plastic shopping bags. Westport was the first town in the state to pass such an ordinance, and they did so four years ago.

Choose to Use Reusable Bags!

Choose to Reuse is proposing a town-wide ordinance to improve the environment in Darien and Long Island Sound by encouraging the use of reusable checkout bags and banning the distribution of plastic bags at the point of sale at retail outlets.
Read more about the Ordinance.

Why Ban Plastic Bags?
Plastic bags are easily replaced with reusable bags. They simply aren’t necessary. Because of the nature of the use and extremely light weight of plastic bags, they are often discarded into the environment and end up polluting our waterways, clogging sewers, endangering marine life and causing unsightly litter. Plastic bags collected for recycling often aren’t recycled at all, for various reasons. Either incinerated or disposed of in landfills, plastic bags, which are made from non-renewable resources like petroleum and natural gas, contaminate the air we breathe and the water we rely on.

Click here for even more information about plastic bags and the proposed ordinance for Darien.

And click here to hear what others are saying about banning plastic bags.

How you can help
Sign the petition.
Make your voice heard.
Contact your RTM member by phone or email.The RTM will be responsible for the vote to pass this ordinance.
Write letters to the editor to voice your position.
Remember to use your reusable bags and encourage others to do so.
Talk about it. Share this information with your neighbors or join the Choose to Reuse Team, so that together we are informed and can make a difference.

September 14, 2012, Darien Times

Plastic bag ban makes Darien RTM agenda

Darien Times/Doug Smith cartoon

The final step in banning plastic bags in Darien appears on the horizon now that the Representative Town Meeting has decided to discuss and perhaps vote on the ordinance at its Monday, Sept. 24 meeting.

RTM moderator and Rules Committee Chairman Karen Armour told The Darien Times that she thinks the ordinance is crafted well enough to warrant a vote.

“I think the [Town Government Structure & Administration] Committee have labored and come up with a clean proposal,” Armour told The Times. The Board of Selectman moved the ban proposal forward to the RTM last September, but the legislators have not had the ordinance on their agenda until now.

Sarah Seelye, chairman of the TGS&A Committee, said the rule was copied from a similar ban in Westport, with only some minor changes. Westport’s Conservation Department enforces its ban, and in Darien it would be the Environmental Protection Commission. The Health Department was suggested to enforce the ban here, but health officials expressed concern that it was out of their purview.

Enforcement would still depend on people informing the town that stores were still using plastic bags, as is the case in Wesport. Alicia Mozian, Wesport’s conservation director, told The Times that she was concerned at first if her department would be able to handle enforcing the rule, but as time has passed, only a handful of complaints have been logged since the ban went into effect in September of 2008.

“There were a couple of instances where we had to work with some businesses,” Mozian said. “One had just placed a big order of new bags; a retail dress shop had just placed an order with their logo on it and everything. We worked with them. We didn’t want to penalize them economically, so we gave them a little longer to comply.”

Mozian added that she thinks it also jumpstarted some of the corporate stores to speed up their design of non-plastic bags. “It felt that way,” she said. Westport was the first town on the East Coast to ban plastic bags after San Francisco broke the mold for the country back in 2007. Australia, China and India have also banned plastic bags and other countries are looking into similar rules.

This past July, Mamaroneck, N.Y., passed a ban on plastic bags, becoming the second Long Island Sound Community in Westchester County to impose a ban. Last year, the New York locales of East Hampton, Southhampton, and Rye also imposed a ban. Darien would be the second Connecticut town to outlaw the bags, if the RTM approves it later this month.

Businesses would have from six to nine months to rid their inventory of plastic bags before the ordinance would kick in. If a business was not in compliance after the ban went into effect, the town would verbally warn the shop and give them time to comply. If they continued to remain out of compliance, they could be fined up to $150. The last time Mozian responded to a complaint of a store using plastics, it turned out the store was in compliance. This was six or nine months ago, she said.

Some plastic bags would remain available, such as plastic bags that cover delivered newspapers, dry cleaning bags and produce bags from the grocery store.

Mozian said she didn’t think any businesses were hurt by the ban, and from what she could recall, few businesses complained that the ban would hurt their bottom line before the ordinance was passed. In Darien, however, the backlash has been a bit more severe.

While the Board of Selectmen passed the ban by a 4-1 vote, with Republican Jerry Nielsen the only naysayer, Republican selectmen Jayme Stevenson and Dave Campbell echoed Nielsen’s concerns that the ban could unnecessarily impose additional costs on businesses at a time when the local economy was still fledgling from the recession.

Darien environmental group Choose to Reuse spearheaded the ordinance, which became a public topic when they proposed the town-wide ban in February of 2011. After eight years of previous campaigning for greener pastures, the group thought the ban, combined with education on reusable bags, would be the way to go. A voluntary ban on plastics was explored but determined it would not go far enough, the group has said.

Greg Palmer, the fourth generation owner of Palmer’s Market, agreed in principal with Choose to Reuse, but said the ordinance would place an unfair burden onto stores such as his that make tiny profit margins.

“We would have to make cuts to giving back to the community, something we’ve already had to do,” Palmer said at a Board of Selectmen meeting in August 2011.

Palmer’s sells reusable bags for 20¢ below cost, he said, and also offers a 5¢ savings per reusable bag at checkout. They also offer free recycling at a small cost to the store. These efforts have cost Palmer $80,000 over the last four years, he said, and banning plastic bags outright would cost his store up to $25,000 a year because of the cost of paper bags.

“As an independent, single-store operator, this would come right off our bottom line,” Palmer said. “We can’t spread it across stores” like the larger grocery store chains, such as Stop & Shop.

Nina Miller, RTM District 2 representative and a founding member of Choose to Reuse, told the Environmental Protection Commission this past August 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.”

Suzanne England owns Beadz Boutique on the Post Road and supports the ordinance. Even though paper bags are considerably more expensive, England is not concerned that ridding her store of plastic bags would impact her business.

“We have to be concerned about our children’s children,” England said, adding that many of her customers wear their jewelry after purchasing, eliminating the need for a bag.

“Most bags we have are already paper.”

England estimates that 15% to 25% of her customers don’t want a bag after buying an item.

Manufacturers of plastic bags could also be affected if more towns decide to ban certain plastics.

Mark McClure is vice president of operations at International Plastics in Greenville, S.C., and told The Times last year that he understands the intent behind bans, but it could be misleading.

“It has good intent, where do you stop?” McClure said. “They’re not outlawing Ziplock bags or other plastics. There’s so much more contaminant in the landfill, a bag is the least of our worries.”

Trashed plastic bags from Darien end up incinerated at the Wheelabrator facility in Bridgeport. Many residents have expressed concern that they reuse the plastic bags to line small waste bins and to pick up pet waste, and the ban would force them to change this habit, which goes against the spirit of the ‘choose to reuse’ concept.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that only 5.2% of plastic bags are recycled. The EPA also estimated that Americans throw away roughly 100 billion plastic bags each year, which is about 333 bags per person.

Plastic bags are composed of polyethylene, a material synthesized from natural gas and crude oil. Some additives help plastics degrade within six months, but most plastics take hundreds of years to decompose and never return to an organic state.

The state’s General Assembly tabled a bill in 2011 that would have imposed a 5¢ tax on each plastic bag used by a consumer. This bill would have also prevented towns from banning these bags outright.

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.

August 9, 2012, Darien Times

Plastic bag ban reaches Environmental Protection Commission

By David DesRoches on August 9, 2012 in NewsTown Government · 0 Comments

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.


Plastic Bag Lobbyist to speak to the Darien Board of Selectmen

On August 22nd, a representative of the Connecticut Food Association (CFA), Stan Sorkin, will come from Hartford to lobby the Darien Board of Selectmen against a plastic bag ban in our town. As part of it’s so called ‘Green Agenda‘, the CFA works with the American Plastics Council to “educate legislators on the consequences of banning plastic bags”.
Please join the Choose To Reuse team at the Board of Selectmen meeting at 7:30 PM at Town Hall on August 22nd, to lobby for ‘Saving the Environment’. Speak up or listen….. just by being there you will show our government and the rest of the town that you care.

Reusable Bag Design Contest Winners!

Winners of the Design Contest

The Choose to Reuse Design-a-Logo contest winners were announced on Saturday May 8th. A reception in their honor was held at the Darien Nature Center. Over 100 beautiful designs for reusable bags were on display.

The winning designs will also be on display at the Darien Sports Shop. Each winning design has been printed on a reusable bag and will be for sale at the Darien Sports Shop and Darien Nature Center.

The winners are as follows: Elena Cage, Sophie Cirillo, Maya Owainati. The honorable mentions are Megan Smith, Cheyenne Tilford, Cammie Lattimer, Claire Billeter, Rose Armstrong, Amina Mobarik, Nina Rodriguez, Grace Rodi and Juliet.


Top three bags winners from the Choose to Reuse Logo Contest show off their winning designs with First Selectman Dave Campbell.

Left to right: Elena Cage, Sophie Cirillo, First Selectman Dave Campbell and Maya Owainati