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As the push to eliminate or reduce single-use plastic bags spreads across the country, Guilford is continuing to investigate the possibility of adopting an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags. At a recent Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting, board members discussed next steps to bring the issue to the public for further discussion.
The board first heard a proposal on a potential ban in August 2018. A group called Bring Your Own (BYO) Guilford gave a presentation to the board advocating for an ordinance that would ban single-use plastic bags in the town. A ban would eliminate plastic bags from the community and encourage residents and businesses to use either paper or reusable bags.
Similar ordinances or bans are in place in other towns across the state and the group said a local ban could be modeled off of other towns or even states and countries that have adopted a single-use plastic bag ban.
At the time of the initial presentation, there were numerous questions surrounding potential language in the ban, implementation, and enforcement. First Selectman Matt Hoey had charged the Sustainable Guilford Task Force with reviewing the issue, asking that group to conduct more research.
Now, Hoey said that group has done a lot of homework and is ready to host a public information session later this month.
“The plan is pretty much the same; it’s a phase-in on a six month program so that the inventory of plastic bags can be depleted,” Hoey said.
“The first step in this process...is engagement with the community and we are not going right to public hearing because public hearing usually requires an action afterward,” he said. “This is just going to be an information session and at that point we will also have some language around the ordinance that we are going to share to say this is what it is going to look like.”
Hoey said at this point the task force also already has commitments from several large businesses in town including Big Y, Bishop’s Orchards, Page Hardware, and The Marketplace, to name a few.
“There are going to be smaller retailers that are going to be impacted by this as well,” he said.
While the town is starting up conversations around the possibility of an ordinance, Hoey noted that the state legislature currently has 18 bills up this session that have something to do with banning plastic bags.
“This is the fourth year in a row that a plastic ban will come up in the legislature,” he said. “There is greater expectation that it is going to make it out of committee because I think it has died in committee the last four years even thought our former state senator [Ted Kennedy, Jr.] had that as one of his pet projects—he couldn’t get it out of his own committee for a variety of reasons.”
Hoey said needing a local ordinance might become a moot point if a law is passed in Hartford, but he thinks the town should start working through public information sessions to prepare should the state not pass a law. He said this is too important an issue to just wait for the legislature.
“There was a news article that I read last week that New Britain just passed a plastic bag ban ordinance,” he said. “Now New Britain doesn’t have the shoreline, which is impacted [by waste bags] dramatically, so if there are inland communities doing this, there is no reason why we can’t do something like this as well…I want to have an ordinance ready to go in the event the legislature does not pass something so that we can immediately do something thereafter.”
One of the big unanswered questions regarding the potential ban is how the ban would be enforced. Hoey said that is an issue that needs to be discussed and pointed out that enforcement will likely still be a local issue even if the state passes a law.
“More than likely the state is going to push the enforcement to the local level, without any funding for it,” he said.
The plastic bag ban ordinance public information session, hosted by the Sustainable Guilford Task Force, is Wednesday, March 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Community Center, 32 Church Street.