RTM eyeing plastic bag ban
FAIRFIELD — As towns across Fairfield County enact legislation doing away with single-use plastic bags, Fairfield is looking to join that group.
For some community members, it’s about time.
Heather Dean, a Democratic Representative Town Meeting member from District 3, thinks it’s time to give the plastic bag ban another go.
“Fairfield simply wasn’t ready yet,” Dean said about the 2009 effort to ban single-use plastic bags in town, an effort that she co-sponsored. “Since then, there has been a slow but growing momentum to rid communities of single-use grocery bags, whether plastic or paper. I’m cautiously hopeful that this time will be different.”
The ordinance, currently in the Legislation and Administration Committee and vulnerable to changes, proposes that no businesses “shall provide or sell any checkout bag to its customers unless it is either a reusable checkout bag or a recycled paper checkout bag.” The Health Department would be made in charge of enforcing the ordinance if it goes into effect.
Dean and other members have based the proposed ordinance on the example of other towns, primarily Westport.
“Our ordinance closely resembles that of Westport’s, however there is an amendment to add a 10-cent fee for single-use paper bags, which is similar to Norwalk, Weston and, most recently, Stamford’s,” Dean said.
According to RTM moderator Phil Pires, the proposal was discussed in October and December in the Legislation and Administration Committee, though it has not passed a committee vote.
Discussion of the ordinance is not currently scheduled for the RTM’s January agenda, Pires said.
“The outreach to merchants and resident is ongoing. We are also analyzing the proposals that other municipalities have considered and passed, such as Norwalk’s recently approved ordinance,” Pires said.
The Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and the town’s Department of Community and Economic Development recently published a survey in which 105 businesses were included. According to the results, 61 percent of respondents were in favor of an ordinance to ban single-use plastic bags.
Local groups like Bring Your Own Fairfield are also encouraging residents to take their survey to gather more information and thoughts on the matter.
The Reusable Checkout Bag Ordinance has been sponsored by members of all the 10 RTM districts, save for District 6 and 8 according to a supplemental warning to the members of the legislative body dated Dec. 4.
Efforts to ban plastic bags span back years but towns are seizing the opportunity as part of a growing national movement aimed at raising awareness about the nocive effects of plastic on the environment and marine life.
Leading the way in these efforts was neighboring Westport, the first town east of the Mississippi River to effectively ban plastic bags, an event that took place little over 10 years ago.
Only last week, the Norwalk Common Council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance prohibiting stores and restaurants from using the plastic bags. The ban goes into effect July 8.
Darien, another town where residents saw efforts to ban plastic bags back in 2012 fail in a 46-36 RTM vote, has now scheduled a public hearing for Feb. 6 where residents and store owners can voice their opinions on the proposed ordinance.
“This time we’re hoping to get the resolution passed. It’s been about a decade since Heather attempted this,” said Mary Hogue, a Fairfield resident and member of the Fairfield Sustainable Task Force.