Reduce Checkout Bag Waste
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Our Darien Ordinance, as proposed, would phase-out plastic checkout bags of less than 12 mil thickness (and non-recycled paper checkout bags) and include a 10 cent fee for a recycled paper checkout bag (one that contains at least 40% recycled material and that is itself 100% recyclable). (Note that 1 mil is 1,000th of an inch.)
The primary intent of the proposed ordinance is waste reduction. We are not proposing that plastic bags be replaced with paper bags. From a purely climate change/carbon footprint perspective, paper is not an alternative to plastic. Our proposal to phase-out non-recycled paper bags and introduce a charge on recycled paper bags is designed to prevent a substitution of plastic with paper and to promote the use of reusable bags which can be used hundreds of times and last for years.
From other environmental perspectives, plastic is far worse than paper. Plastic production has increased year over year, to the point where half of the plastic ever manufactured has been made in the past 15 years. In relation to plastic bags, the US uses 100 billion plastic bags annually. In Darien, stores give out around 40,000 bags per week, with one national chain handing out some 18,000 plastic bags weekly in one location alone. Plastic bags are not being recycled and are no longer accepted into single stream recycling in Darien or elsewhere. Instead these bags are being incinerated.
Some 8 million tons of plastic per year ends up in our oceans (whether blown, washed or dumped from land) which likely includes the 100,000 plastic bags which enter Long Island Sound annually. The Great Pacific Garbage patch is well documented. It is thought to be somewhere between the size of Texas and the size of Russia and is just one of 5 floating plastic islands in our oceans. Plastic waste is washing up on the beaches and shores of Darien every single day. The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans by weight than fish.
Around 100,000 marine creatures and 1 million sea birds die annually from plastic entanglement or ingestion. Additionally, unlike plastic on land which takes hundreds of years to decompose, plastic in seawater plastic breaks up into tiny fragments called microplastics which are ingested by fish (including shellfish), which is then consumed by humans. Additionally, plastic in seawater absorbs and concentrates highly toxic pollutants, such as PCBs and DDT, in the surrounding water. These pollutants have been known to cause cancer and birth defects and disrupt many of the body's tissues and organs.
In order to uphold the goal of helping to reduce this toxic waste, we believe that an ordinance should eliminate all plastic bags across all businesses. The mil requirement (thickness) for what constitutes a plastic bag subject to the ordinance is critical in this regard.
We are aware that certain manufacturers are producing thicker plastic bags for Suffolk County and other towns that have eliminated plastic bags of less than 2.25 mil thickness, thereby end-running those ordinances.
We understand that some towns with low mil requirements are revisiting their ordinance mil thickness. The Surfrider Foundation is helping towns accomplish this. See https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/closing-plastic-reusable-bag-loopholes
Extensive research indicates that while most grocery stores likely would not use a bag of more than 3 - 4 mil thickness, other boutique-type stores use plastic bags of up to 10 mil thickness. BYO Greenwich researched around 25 companies worldwide and found that the thickest non-reusable bag was 11 mil thickness.
An ordinance eliminating plastic bags of less than 12 mil thickness (such as the ordinances of Greenwich and Norwalk), would preclude end-running because, by definition, any bag of 12 mil thickness or more, would be a reusable bag.
The 10 cent charge on recycled paper bags is essential to achieve the goal of waste reduction. Without a charge, as discussed above, we may simply end up replacing plastic with paper, a result than Darien did not want back in 2012, and a result that would not create any climate change improvement.
We believe that the 10 cent charge is also important to remind people to bring their own bags when shopping. It also helps smaller businesses defray their costs and creates a level playing field if all businesses have to charge for recycled paper bags. Our smaller businesses could be disadvantaged if the national chains in town, which sell many of the products sold in our smaller stores, can simply give away the bags. Studies show that a charge, even when nominal, can be more effective than a discount (see: https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/why-a-bag-tax-works-better-than-a-reusable-bag-bonus/
Many of our neighboring towns, Greenwich, Stamford, Weston and Norwalk, have already taken action to stem the use of plastic in their towns. Other towns in CT are following suit. Many towns and cities are also considering phasing out other single use plastics. NYC, for example has recently passed a law to eliminate single use styrofoam. Cities and countries around the world are taking steps to address the crisis of overproduction and use of plastic. The EU is eliminating several single use plastics by 2021. Even businesses are becoming more conscious of the problem: Kroger's plans to eliminate plastic bags by 2025.
Given the amount of endorsement we have received from the majority of businesses in town, we hope that Darien will soon be able to contribute to the solution rather than to the problem.
Please sign our petition if you are a Darien Resident:
WE THE UNDERSIGNED RESIDENTS OF THE TOWN OF DARIEN are signing this BYO Darien petition in support of their initiative to help protect Darien’s environment by encouraging the use of reusable bags and by phasing out plastic bags and non-recycled paper bags.
We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act now to eliminate the use of plastic bags and non-recycled bags in Darien.
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