Last year, the state of CT implemented a new 10-cent tax on plastic bags in the retail arena, resulting in major behavior shift for the public. Now, Wilton Go Green (WGG) plans on asking the Board of Selectmen (BOS) to consider stronger ordinances for the Town of Wilton, banning single-use plastic bags and styrofoam.
First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice told the BOS last week about the local environmental group’s interest in proposing such a ban for the town. To implement any kind of ordinance change, officials eventually would need to take the proposal to approval by residents at a town meeting.
GOOD Morning Wilton conducted a reader poll one year ago on the question of banning plastic bags and, almost 400 respondents gave their feedback; they were overwhelmingly supportive on limits, with 75% saying “Yes” to a Wilton ban on retailers using plastic bags for customer purchases.
The state of CT will be implementing a ban on single use plastic bags in 2021; Vanderslice said WGG is interested in having Wilton act one year before the statewide ban takes effect.
Second Selectwoman Lori Bufano wondered why Wilton would go through the process of changing an ordinance if the state already has plans to implement such a ban. “It seems very similar if not exact to what the state is mandating,” she said.
Her fellow BOS member Deb McFadden appreciated WGG’s proactive intent. “I would be open in they want to come and address us, I think it’s appropriate to listen to what their recommendations are.”
She noted that WGG “grew out” of the Wilton Energy Commission, a BOS initiative. “It’s coming around full circle, they’re kind of our baby, and we should really listen to what they have to say,” she said.
Bufano said she agreed, but that there are still several questions that would need to be asked.
Vanderslice noting that the current state legislation doesn’t implement the tax on all plastic bags. “I’m not sure why it’s ok to have a plastic bag to put your apples in, in the produce section and not okay to carry it out [of the store] in a plastic bag. That’s another question: Should it be expanded beyond what the state is doing?”
McFadden thought a proposed ban from WGG might follow Norwalk’s current ordinance, which bans plastic straws and beverage stirrers, but Vanderslice said that was something WGG only included in its initial communication with the BOS as an example.
“Norwalk’s ordinance goes further, that’s not what we’re talking about; they sent that as an example, but we’re only talking single use plastic bags, a year early [from the state ban]” Vanderslice explained.
However, one other material that Vanderslice said WGG would like to include in a proposed ban is styrofoam.
McFadden expressed an interest in having WGG still address other plastic items like straws as well. “I would like to hear what they say on all of those different things and then we can discuss what’s appropriate for us. To give us not only a status report on what their recommendations are, but a status on each of those items within the state, and what are our neighbors doing?”
Bufano listed several things that would need to be addressed in the discussion, including penalties and who at Town Hall would enforce any ban–the code enforcement officer out of the land use office or the building code enforcement officer. Vanderslice noted that a town attorney would also have to get involved.
Noting that Dunkin Donuts has already eliminated the use of styrofoam, Vanderslice wondered what other businesses would be impacted. She suggested WGG should cover what conversations they’ve had with Wilton business and who would be impacted.
Selectman Josh Cole said as part of the public hearing process the BOS would need to hear from Wilton business owners, like the Village Market, about what they would need to do if such a ban were implemented.
Bufano suggested that many businesses are already moving in that direction, given coming changes at the state level. Vanderslice agreed.
“I don’t go anywhere where there’s takeout with styrofoam. I don’t know if anybody in Wilton does use it, but we’ll ask [WGG] to do an assessment before they come back of what’s the magnitude in Wilton,” she said.
McFadden pointed out that such an ordinance change might impact a wider commercial community. “The other thing also to consider, is when we have things like the food truck festival, or a temporary thing where they’re handing out things out their little windows–is that treated differently than a brick and mortar?”
Vanderslice said she’ll invite WGG to present the proposal but that she’ll specify the information the BOS would like to hear. “We’ll make sure they have data on that.”
BOS member Ross Tartell made a point about the question of a straw ban: “There’s a disability issue with straws, we need to pay attention to that.”
Vanderslice agreed: “That’s why I didn’t want to touch that. We already do ‘Skip the Straw.’ There are medical issues. There are some things you might legislate and other things may be the best with education,” she said, noting that enforcing a straw ban is “very difficult.”
A prior ban on plastic bags in Wilton that was proposed several years ago did not pass, and officials at the time opted for increasing community awareness and education. Vanderslice referred to that effort in regard to last year’s Skip the Straw campaign introduction in Wilton, and observed that the effort hasn’t taken strong hold. “I now find I go in to certain places and they automatically give me a straw. Before when we started Skip the Straw, they didn’t. No matter what you do you have to be vigilant in keeping it out front.”
Vanderslice said she’d schedule a presentation from WGG at a future BOS meeting, noting that the Town Charter specifies a timetable that would need to be met in order to bring a proposed ordinance to voters for consideration at the Annual Town Meeting.
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