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The town’s Conservation Commission is encouraging public support for a ban against plastic bags at both the town and state level, citing dangers to the environment and the financial cost of those bags to businesses. With a growing movement to ban their use statewide, other officials in town are taking a wait-and-see approach.
At its Feb. 25 meeting, the commission moved to encourage residents to actively support and lobby for a ban on single-use plastic bags.
“We’re asking [the public for] a number of things,” Conservation Commission Chair Hugh Davis said. The commission encourages residents to “reach out to the Board of Selectmen and lobby for a statewide ban to use only reusable bags, to contact their legislators.”
Davis described the environmental impact of widespread plastic bag use.
“The estimates I’ve seen [show] at least 100 billion plastic bags are used in the U.S. every year, about 500 billion to a trillion worldwide,” Davis said. “They’re polluting the oceans; they last for thousands of years; they’re having terrible effects on marine life.”
Davis also said the fossil fuel use that goes into the bags’ manufacture and transportation presents a danger, and suggested that single-use bags also have a negative financial impact on businesses and consumers.
“Retailers in the U.S. spend about $4 billion a year to purchase these bags and then a lot of these costs are passed on to the consumer,” Davis said. “That’s one of the reasons the Connecticut Food Association has come out strongly in favor of a statewide ban.”
North Haven would not be the first to introduce a ban on nuisance plastics. Hamden’s Legislative Council in February passed two ordinances, one that bans single-use plastic checkout bags, and another that allows for drinking straws only upon request at bars and restaurants.
“It would save businesses a lot of money and it would help the environment,” Davis said.
The movement is gaining traction around the state with towns like Branford and Guilford considering similar proposals.
“We point out that Big Y is not going to hand out plastic bags beginning next year,” Davis said. “That’s a big deal and we hope that that sets a precedent.”
First Selectman Mike Freda, however, has said that he opposes a local ban on single-use plastic bags.
“I was reluctant to [put together a local ordinance] because we don’t have the resources to enforce an ordinance like that,” Freda said. “My goal here is to allow this to happen at a state level.”
“We’re caught in this situation where…if [Freda] is opposed to a local ban, it’s not going to happen,” Davis said. “We’re really trying to help others push for a statewide ban.”