It’s no surprise that the topic of banning plastic bags is being discussed in Wilton, given that not only are lawmakers in Hartford considering legislation banning plastic bags statewide but several neighboring towns already have existing regulations either limiting or prohibiting stores from usage plastic shopping bags.

Officials tried to introduce a ban on plastic bags in Wilton a number of years ago, but weren’t successful. Whether they’d have more success now is still to be determined.

Take our poll, at the end of the article

The concept of regulating plastic bag usage in Wilton hasn’t officially been brought forward again to town officials, but environmental groups, including Wilton Go Green, have been actively considering it. With this weekend’s Zero Waste Faire spotlighting sustainable and eco-friendly living (Saturday, Wilton High School Field House, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.), it’s highly likely that the idea will gain even more traction.

Wilton Go Green president Dana Gips says it’s an effort that her group is getting organized behind. Among the possible approaches they hope officials would consider, she says options include prohibiting stores from using very lightweight plastic bags that are 12 millimeters or less in thickness, to allowing stores to use plastic bags but pass along a per-bag fee.

“Think about it like buying soda in cans, you have to put your five-cents deposit down. It’s going to be like 10 or 15 cents, if you want to get a bag from the store,” she says. “If you bring your own bags, there’s no cost at all.”

Gips said such an option would likely be proposed to include charging for paper bags as well. It’s all geared toward encouraging shoppers to use their own reusable bags rather than take single-use plastic or paper bags.

“There are problems with paper, also. Paper uses valuable resources also to make–water and trees. Really, our goal is to educate people that … we shouldn’t just have things that we use once and throw away,” she adds.

Several nearby communities–including Westport, Greenwich, Stamford and Norwalk–either have or are going to implement legislation that curtails the use of plastic bags by town businesses.

Gips points to a recent volunteer effort she and Wilton Go Green vice president, Tina Duncan, attended, during one of the regularly scheduled beach cleanups on the shores of Long Island Sound.

“There was a beach cleanup at Oyster Shell Park on Saturday. The number of plastic bags and plastic straws, and plastic bottles … I mean, we barely made a dent, and the dozens of people that were there, we barely made a dent. Then people think, ‘Oh, we don’t effect the sound.’ Yeah, you do…. you know that straw … the one that was in your drink, and it fell out, and you didn’t bother to pick it up, and it wound up in the parking lot? That’s gonna make its way into the Norway River, the next time we have a big rainstorm. It’s gonna wind up in the ocean. It’s gonna wind up in some turtle’s nose … possibly.”

What’s more, Gips said some of the material that volunteers picked up during that clean-up could be traced back to Wilton. “They found fliers of ours down there and … it just gets taken by the wind and the water.”

Wilton Go Green has mobilized around the question of straw pollution as well, with a “Skip the Straw Team” working to get Wilton restaurants to commit to not automatically offering straws. They’ll be providing a lot of education on all these topics, as well as offering sustainable and reusable items for sale at the Faire on Saturday.

Steps at Town Hall

Wilton’s environmental affairs director Mike Conklin oversees any efforts Wilton pursues in the area of recycling and sustainability. As of now, no proposal has been officially brought forward to the Board of Selectmen or Conservation Commission. But that doesn’t mean he’s not working to raise awareness.

“This year we would like to increase our public outreach to help Wilton residents make better decisions for themselves as the amount of waste that each household produces in general. If we can increase awareness that creating so much waste is an environmental issue in town, that would be very beneficial,” Conklin says.

Thinking about how much waste each person produces is something Conklin says is important for everyone to do. He said his office is working this year to help raise awareness and to come up with ways to help people make better environmental choices.

“If I’m buying produce, do I need to put each separate item in a bag? You really don’t. Personally I don’t do that anymore. I was trained that way because everyone seems to do that. but it just wastes bags, A lot of times you aren’t given a choice. If you’re going to buy celery–there’s a pretty good chance it already comes in a bag. In a bigger picture, we need to ask ourselves, ‘Does it need to be in a bag?'”

Like Gips, Conklin has had his own real-life evidence hit home about how widespread the problem is.

“I was on vacation this summer, and two different times, I was swimming on a beautiful beach out on the Cape, and a straw got stuck to me. Like, out of nowhere. After the second straw, I was like, ‘All right. I’m in a believer.’ We have to do something about these straws.”

Conklin thinks Wilton residents are primed to be receptive to the messaging.

“I really think that people in our community can, if given the right information and right options, will choose to do what’s best for the environment and for their families.”

[yop_poll id=”8″]