Bag-ban backers draw line in the sand
Hoping to demonstrate a united front, a group of state legislators, local officials and environmental activists held a Westport beach news conference Saturday afternoon focused on banning single-use plastic bags in Connecticut.
Westport was the first municipality in the state to do so, 10 years ago, and several involved with that fight, including state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, spoke Saturday of its importance.
“People said it couldn’t be done, (but) the state can do it, too,” Steinberg said, noting the first bill aiming to do so was introduced eight years ago in Hartford.
Steinberg and state Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, along with state Rep. Kim "Rose, D-Milford, have each introduced bills into the legislature that, respectively, prohibit use and distribution of single-use plastic bags, promote the use of reusable bags, and establish fees on paper bags.
“Paper bags also have an adverse impact,” said Louis Burch, program director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, noting the goal was to encourage people to bring their own reusable bags.
“It’s time now for our state government to follow Westport’s lead,” Haskell said, addressing around 60 people who endured icy winds to take part in the rally adjacent to the historic cannons at Compo Beach.
He said 18 billion pounds of plastic waste end up in the world’s oceans every year, with only 5 percent ultimately recycled. “It’s time to reverse that trend,” he said.
“The next generation of voters has spoken loudly and clearly,” Haskell said.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am that Westport is actually the home of the plastic bag ordinance,” First Selectman Jim Marpe, a Republican, said.
“This is not a Republican or Democratic issue,” he said. “It’s a bipartisan issue.”
Liz Milwe, a District 1 member of Westport’s Representative Town Meeting, and who took part in the original plastic bag ban, said Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Weston have all recently passed local bans similar to Westport’s.
“We hope the whole state of Connecticut will join us,” she said.
Wayne Pesce, president of the Connecticut Food Association, which represents retail organizations, said his group was in agreement with the ban.
“Connecticut’s growing retail community fully supports this effort,” he said. “We want to be part of the solution.”
“I do believe it is important to bring all the shareholders into this dialogue,” said state Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, noting the manufacturing of single-use bags is poor business.
“I’m fully supportive of (a statewide ban) ... for the environment, but for good business as well,” he said.
“We use these things for a minute or a second, and then they go in the seas, and they can be there for centuries,” state Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, said. “That should tell us everything we need to know.”
But while she expressed her support for a ban, she said that, given the extreme state of the planet, it wasn’t enough.
“We have a major problem with lots of single-use plastic bottles,” she said, noting the market for plastic waste was diminishing.
“We’re going to have to learn to, A: limit it, and B: treat it in a more methodical way than we do,” Lavielle said.
“I think this is a good first step, but it’s not enough,” she said.