Westport Goes Green. Plastic Bags Banned from Most Retail Use.
On September 2, 2008, The Representative Town Meeting (RTM) passed an ordinance to ban the use of plastic bags for retail checkout of purchased goods. Yesterday, that ordinance went into effect, making Westport the first town in Connecticut to institute a plastic bag ban.
The ordinance passed by a vote of 26 to 5, with one abstention. The six month delay in implementing the ban was put in place in order to allow time for establishments to use up their supplies of plastic bags and to prepare and educate Westport residents to the change.
The RTM is Westport's legislative body. Their stated purpose for the Retail Checkout Bags Ordinance is to encourage the use of reusable checkout bags. The new ruling applies to all retail establishments and restaurants. The ban does not apply to sales by residents, at their homes, such as tag sales or to sales by non-profit organizations. Arguably, the largest and most immediate effect of the ban is being felt at supermarkets.
There are some exclusions to the ban. Still allowed are the thin, plastic produce bags used to carry meats and produce to the checkout counter. Also, exempt are plastic bags with more than one opening, such as those used by the cleaners and plastic bags measuring 28" by 36", or larger.
Although "going green" and protecting the environment are currently popular issues, not everyone is quick to jump aboard the plastic bag ban. A plastic bag ordinance was proposed in the Connecticut State Legislature, but it never gained traction. A similar proposal, made to the city council in New Haven, CT, was rejected.
Some argue that while having consumers use recylable bags is a positive goal, the more likely result of the ban will just be the increased use of paper bags, which carries its own negative environmental issues.
Two years ago, San Francisco was the first United States city to ban the use of plastic bags. Los Angeles and Manhattan Beach, California have also passed plastic bag legislation.
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