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Guilford High School junior Charlotte Wiley addresses a crowd of Guilford residents gathered at the Community Center to hear more about the proposed plastic bag ban ordinance. (Photo by Zoe Roos/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The issue of plastic pollution has garnered global attention and while the issue might seem vast and daunting, Guilford is looking to help address the issue in its own small way: a ban on single-use plastic bags at the point of checkout.
On March 27, the Sustainable Guilford Task Force held a public information session to discuss work done to date by the task force and the proposed single-use plastic bag ban ordinance. Task force co-chair Terri Cain said the proposed Guilford ban is a hybrid of what the task force has seen work well in other parts of the state.
“The most efficient way to do this is to change peoples’ habits,” she said. “The only way to change peoples habits is to ban plastic bags outright. That is the only way it has worked, but you have to take one more step. In addition to banning plastic outright, we must put a fee on paper bags. If we do not put a fee on paper bags, then people will just start using paper bags. That’s not going to get rid of the problem of single-use waste or the carbon footprint.”
The ordinance, as proposed, would eliminate all single-use plastic bags at the point of checkout. The ordinance would allow businesses to phase out plastic bags over a six-month period, allowing owners to work through plastic bags they may have already purchased. In addition, a 10 cent fee would be placed on paper bags to encourage people to switch to reusable bags and not just flip from plastic to paper.
“We want to encourage everyone to just bring your own bag,” she said. “It’s pretty simple. It’s a habit.”
To date, eight municipalities in the state have passed bans and another 17 cities and towns are currently considering single-use plastic bag bans. In Hartford, the General Assembly Environment Committee recently passed a bill out of committee that would ban single-use plastic bags statewide, but Cain said the state bill has too many loopholes.
“It’s a state bill banning plastic bags, but the problem is that it does not place a fee on paper bags, so that needs to be changed,” she said. “The other problem is it is limited to large stores only of 10,000 square feet or more. The state bill that has passed out of committee really isn’t going to solve the problem.”
The task force has been working closely with other groups in town on this ordinance, including the Guilford High School Environmental Club. Club President GHS junior Charlotte Wiley spoke about the dangers of plastics at the public information meeting and referenced a startling statistic recently put forward by the World Economic Forum.
“They had a study that found the amount of plastic will outweigh the amount of fish in our oceans by the year 2050,” she said. “When we think of oceans, we want to think of extraordinary and diverse marine life, of pristine beaches…In just 31 short years, do we really want our oceans to be known for floating masses of garbage?”
She said the average person uses a plastic bag for only 12 minutes, but that bag will live for centuries in the ocean, harming animals and humans.
“The reason we are here tonight and the reason we are fighting to pass Guilford’s ordinance banning single-use plastic bags is to save our Sound, save our seas, and to save our earth for every generation after us,” she said.
The proposed ban bag is part of Guilford’s broader initiative to be a certified Sustainable CT town. Sustainable CT is voluntary certification program open to all municipalities and which aims to help towns build their local economies while protecting their natural resources.
According to the program mission statement, the goal is to “provide municipalities with a menu of coordinated, voluntary actions to continually become more sustainable; to provide resources and tools to assist municipalities in implementing sustainability actions and advancing their programs for the benefit of all residents; and to certify and recognize municipalities for their ongoing sustainability achievements.”
There was no vote taken on the ordinance at the meeting and was considered informational only. A public hearing will be needed to vote on the ordinance, but First Selectmen Matt Hoey said he wanted to give the public time to learn about the ordinance before it went to a vote.
“It’s time for us to start moving this along, so that is why I asked this task force to pull together this information session,” he said. “One of things I have learned over the years is that you don’t force anything down peoples’ throats. You give people the opportunity to learn and participate in the process but also to make informed decisions.”
Visit the town website at www.ci.guilford.ct.us for more information on the task force and public hearing information.
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