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Darien May Join Westport in Banning Plastic Bags

DARIEN, Conn. — As she unloaded a shopping cart filled with groceries in plastic bags at Palmer’s Supermarket on Thursday, Sheree Frank said she remembers when stores used only brown paper bags.

Those paper bags may make a comeback if an ordinance proposed by a local environmental group to ban plastic bags is enacted in town. Choose to Reuse in Darien is fighting to follow Westport’s lead and make the town only the second in Connecticut to ban plastic shopping bags. The group has made presentations to the Board of Selectmen and plans to ask the Representative Town Meeting to approve an ordinance based on the one passed two years ago in Westport.

But merchants such as Greg Palmer, co-owner of 80-year-old Palmer’s Supermarket, are fighting back. Palmer will lead store owners in urging the Board of Selectmen to reject the proposal at its meeting Monday at 7:45 p.m. in Town Hall.

“We support use of reusable bags that we make available and have a sign promoting them in our window,” Palmer said. “But making this a law is wrong. We would pay $20,000 more a year to eliminate plastic bags.”

Customers at Palmer’s were divided Thursday on the proposal. “I’m not opposed to using paper and cloth bags, I just think it should be voluntary and we should have a choice,” Darien resident Frank said as she pulled bags from her cart and put them into her car. “I try to be green whenever possible, but sometimes plastic bags are more convenient. That choice shouldn’t be taken away.”

Mary Ann Loh, also of Darien, carried her groceries in a reusable Palmer’s bag. Although Loh said she supports banning plastic bags, she’s not sure it should become law so quickly. “We should phase it in gradually. But it would be a big hardship for senior citizens who use the plastic, to force this on them all at once,” said Loh.

Sally Lovegrove, also of Darien, carried her groceries in brown paper bags, saying she usually brings her own cloth bags and supports the proposed ban. “We must consider the future,” said Lovegrove. “We can’t keep ignoring how much it’s hurting the environment.”

Nina Miller, co-founder and leader of Use to Reuse in Darien, said, “We’ve been at this for two years, and we know making it voluntary doesn’t work."

Miller said corporate policies at chains such as Stop & Shop, Dunkin' Donuts and Subway mandate use of plastic bags and said only laws prohibiting them would work. “It’s working in Westport and other places like San Francisco,” she said.

Miller said 100 billion plastic bags are thrown away in the United States every year and kill more than 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles.

Do you support a ban on plastic bags in Darien? Let us know in a comment below.

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