City Eyes Plastic Bag Ban

Allan Appel PhotoIf a new plan becomes law, fewer plastic bags will accumulate under New Haven sinks, in the dump, on sidewalks, or in the Sound.

That’s the goal of a proposed city ordinance the Harp administration is pushing to reduce the common use of plastic single-use carry-out bags. The non-biodegradable bags pollute the ocean and kill whales and dolphins there, jam recycling machinery, deplete the ozone layer when incinerated, and clog landfills.

At Wednesday night’s regular meeting at City Hall of the Environmental Avisory Council (EAC), mayoral Legislative Assistant and Policy Analyst Esther Armand announced the general framework of the proposed plastic bag ordinance.

“She [the mayor] feels strongly about this,” Armand said.

The mayor two weeks ago asked Armand to begin to frame a communication to the Board of Alders that would start the process of crafting of an ordinance that would then go through the committee and public hearing process before being voted on as a piece of legislation.

The initiative is one that is part of the City of New Haven Climate and Sustainability Framework, which was passed by the alders in March of this year.

The framework calls for the city to tax plastic bags and straws and water bottles in keeping with zero waste design guidelines for urban centers.

The aspirational framework calls not only on the city to adopt new policies but for individual businesses and citizens to make everyday decisions that cumulatively will reduce New Haven’s carbon emissions by 55 percent by 2030.

Armand told the committee Wednesday night she doesn’t have details yet about whether the ordinance would rely on taxes or fines and/or public education to reduce and eventually eliminate one-use plastic bags in town. She said she hopes that public hearings at the Board of Alders would enlist the public in helping to shape those details.

The opening paragraph of the framework for the ordinance reads:

From Mayor Toni N. Harp, on behalf of the residents of the City of New Haven, an order to advance the work of the Environmental Advisory Council, the New Haven Climate and Sustainability Framework, the One-City Initiative, City Services and New Haven Environmental Policy to promote citywide efforts of sustainable materials management by enacting an ordinance to eliminate the common use of plastic single-use carry-out bags. It is the intent of the city of New Haven in enacting this ordinance to encourage the use of reusable bags by consumers and retailers, and to reduce the consumption of single-use bags in general.

Environmental groups estimate that a billion plastic bags are used annually in Connecticut. The city’s step is part of a wave of individual towns that have already or are in the process of fashioning bans. According to this recent article in the Hartford Courant Westport banned single-use plastic bags in 2009, and Greenwich followed soon thereafter. Middletown and Mansfield are planning bans.

Towns along the shoreline, where many of the bags end up in Long Island Sound, are also planning legislation. Statewide legislation is also in the offing for the 2019 session.

“It’ll make a difference in the city,” Armand said. She expressed the hope that an ordinance could be passed this year.

Mayor Toni Harp said Thursday on her latest appearance on WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday” program that she envisions beginning with a pilot program under the ordinance to last three years to assess how best to accomplish the goal.

“We’re not asking people to get rid of plastic immediately” but rather to help gradually move it in that direction, Harp said.

Click on the Facebook Live video to watch the full episode of WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday,” which also touched on the legacy of Henry “Hank” Parker and of city architect Dave Moser, “portfolio” public schools, “social-emotional” efforts, and the fate of vowels in 21st century urban development projects.

This episode of “Mayor Monday” was made possible with the support of Gateway Community College and Berchem Moses P.C.

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posted by: JCFremont on October 4, 2018  6:07pm

Here’s an idea to bring down costs and trash. Educate no order, clerks not to automatically put 1 beverage in a bag. I’ve even had a clerk put a newspaper in a plastic bag. Don’t even ask a customer with less than 3 small items if they need a bag. Hey it’s a start.

posted by: Ryn111 on October 4, 2018  6:35pm

There are more plastic bags and “nips” littered around New Haven than anywhere I have seen. It continually accumulates.

We should have signs on highway off ramps that read “welcome to trashtown”

There is a severe lack of accountability by some residents and visitors. It is obvious the city should implement something to help curb this issue.

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 4, 2018  8:38pm

My second job in High School was as a Grocery Clerk in a local IGA.
(my first job was McDonald’s, and that lasted three weeks)

This was before the days of bottled water—there was only Perrier, other than the distilled water in the gallon jugs for ‘ironing. Under ‘my watch’, Poland Spring was introduced.  Very soon after that the deli in the back of the store started filling up gallons of water, labelling it ‘IGA Spring Water’, at a discounted price.

Also, when I worked as a grocery clerk, everything was packed in paper. Paper or Plastic wasn’t even a choice.
The exception was ‘cold stuff’, especially ‘ice cream’ that got a plastic wrapper to stop it from ‘melting’.
The truth was, it was just about keeping the condensation off of the other items in the bag.

Laundry Detergent got the ‘plastic treatment’ as well. That made some kind of scents!

posted by: LookOut on October 4, 2018  8:39pm

Hey Toni!  Work on the budget first.

posted by: wendy1 on October 4, 2018  9:34pm

BAN PLASTIC BAGs.  Some local food stores have already.  I use an old canvas bag and recycle all paper bags I use.

posted by: Shosh on October 5, 2018  12:22am

Years ago I read a suggestion for cashiers to ask, “Do you NEED a bag?” rather than “Do you WANT a bag?”  The idea had been tested, and it turned out that changing that single word reduced the number of bags used.  I’ve been doing it even since then.

posted by: robn on October 5, 2018  6:28am

Hey don’t look at the new $85M of pure financing debt or your 11% property tax hike…pay attention to the environment instead.

posted by: wendy1 on October 5, 2018  9:32am

I am an OLD BAG…but not plastic.

posted by: jim1 on October 5, 2018  9:49am

yes she is a old bag but I love here..

posted by: Noteworthy on October 5, 2018  10:00am

Mis-Direction Notes:

1. And now for something different from Truffle Butter and jet setting around the country for useless conferences at five star hotels…..

2. Go to the archives - and pull up a really stupid idea of banning plastic bags. These bags can be recycled; they’re useful for picking up dog shxt; loading up items to give to a neighbor or drop off at Goodwill.

3. Stop wasting our time. Focus on the most pressing issues of this city. Fiscal health; education and runaway budgets.

4. And no, you can’t chew gum and walk so stop trying to do that - just focus on the core issues. This trivia is just a distraction.

posted by: Atwater on October 5, 2018  11:17am

Plastic bag bans are a great idea. In Austin the bag ban has significantly improved the plastic litter problem. One issue though is that the Austin bag ban, along with other Texas cities’ plastic bag bans, have been overturned by that State’s supreme court. So, New Haven will have to tread lightly and be careful to avoid any violations of the State constitution.

Also, plastic bag bans might not reduce the amount of plastic waste. In Austin grocery stores sell “reusable” plastic bags, which are just thicker plastic bags. They cost .25, but a lot of people, who simply forget to bring a bag to the store, or who do not care enough to bring one, just end up with a horde of thicker plastic bags. Where do these bags end up? In the landfill. So, it’s really just a delay of litter.

Yes, we need to pay attention to the environment and our city’s government and its people must address environmental issues just as aggressively as it does economic issues.

posted by: Bohica on October 5, 2018  11:31am

Been there done that.  There was a ban on plastic bags in the late 90’s when we had a landfill and it was a failure.  No teeth, no fines.  Later they tried it with Styrofoam added and coffee shops were forced to use only paper cups unless they recycled the Styrofoam that was generated on site.  Only problem was you had to wash it before recycling to remove any food residue. Hope they put a little more thought into it this time.

posted by: dad101 on October 7, 2018  1:47pm

Wow lets compare GREENWICH AND WESTPORT TO NEW HAVEN..first thing is the financial differences> What you can ask demand and expect are so different.Offering alternatives and or solutions ..starting with the youth seems to be much fairer. While the enviorment is inprotant you are going to punish people who cant afford????
How many corner stores, bodegas ,food take outs are in either of those loacations..not even half combined of what new haven has..DOnt jump on the band wagon expecting the same results…grow your community into new ways and habits.Give an incentive to neighborhood stores to do things differant!!!!

posted by: Chip on October 8, 2018  3:32am

Studies in Denmark and Quebec show plastic bags are best for the environment - New Studies Show Plastic Bags are Best Option for the Environment - recent studies from two countries prove that plastic bags are the best option for the environment, while cotton bags are actually having a negative impact on our planet and human health. In Canada, Recyc-Québec, an environmental organization based in Montreal, released a study that found the conventional plastic bag is the best option for the environment due to several advantages.

The study states, “Thin and light, its [plastic bags’] production requires little material and energy.” Plastic bags also have a high reuse rate as garbage bag/bin liners (77.7%), which helps avoid the production and use of additional bags for that purpose. According to Recyc-Québec, the overall life-cycle of the plastic bag – from production to the end of its life – has far less environmental impact compared with other bags.

A new study from Denmark’s Environmental Protection Agency found even more staggering results - finding that plastic bags are better for the environment!

Paper bags, etc. uses trees, 17 trees per ton of paper, which is processed with highly polluting acids, bleach and tons of fresh water! Recycling paper also uses lots of acids and bleach to turn it back into pulp! Paper comes from clear cut forests which destroy the environment and animal habitats. Better to have a vigorous recycling program for plastics and have developing countries stop dumping their trash in the ocean! Also glass bottles require 2800 degrees F to melt so they are far from environmentally friendly and cost lots of petrol to transport. I’ve been an environmental activist since 1982, was one of the first to work on plastic bags killing giant sea turtles off New England coasts. I’m so tired of the misinformation being spouted by so-called environmentalists who have no true knowledge of materials science and the environment.