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Environmental Group Proposes Plastic Bag Ban

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Promoting a ban on plastic bags is Newtown's Environmental Action Group, which formed in the past year.Draft OrdinanceReducing Consumption

"We would like to see plastic consumption decreased. If it continues, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050," said chairman Vanessa Villamil. "Right now the plastic bag ban is our main focus." The action group now has 18 members.

"Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down and we wanted to tackle that problem," said Ms Villamil. Other Connecticut towns have done plastic bag bans successfully, she said. She and other group members have written a draft for a Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance, which will circulate before town officials for consideration.

Near the end of former First Selectman Pat Llodra's tenure, group members had spoken with her and interns, including current member, John Board, to put together a plastic bag ban proposal. Members have introduced the idea to the Sustainable Energy Commission, and the Parks and Recreation Department recently. Both were supportive, Ms Villamil said. A Legislative Council subcommittee is also anticipating reading the draft.

The action group's proposal would ban all plastic check-out bags and suggests a ten cent charge for paper bags "if you did not have your own reusable bags," she said.

Seven of the ten cents would go to the town for infrastructure and environmental projects. Anyone on food assistance or government assistance would be exempt.

Her next step is to talk to more people, said Ms Villamil.

"I would love to have support of all the people in Newtown," she said.

Mr Board has been working to craft an ordinance for the ban, and "in the future we can move forward with ordinance changes," once town government approves their draft, he said.

His involvement with the campaign goes back to Mrs Llodra.

"I served as her intern, and this is a project she had me working on. I researched multiple municipalities across [the] country. This ordinance is very balanced, and we have reached out to major businesses, grocery stores, etc; this has been very much a collaborative." He said, "The major thing we are trying to do is to get residents to change over to reusable bags."

Since his internship, efforts "took on its own life." He and the action group are ready to bring it before the Board of Selectmen and the Legislative Council. "Hopefully we will be able to get this in place by March 2019," Mr Board said.

Regarding Ms Villamil's visit with the recreation commission, Parks and Recreation Director Amy Mangold said, "The Commission showed support of her plans and goals for the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance."

The commission "discussed possibilities of a camp project where the students could decorate their own cloth shopping bags and learn about the importance of reusing them and helping the community and the environment," Ms Mangold said. "I feel that all Parks and Recreation Departments should be environmental stewards and refer to responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices. This is a goal I would like to continue to grow through our department."

The draft states: "The purpose of this ordinance is to improve the environment in Newtown and the health, safety, and welfare of its residents... retail establishments are encouraged to make reusable bags available for sale..."

Section 4 mentions, "There will be a Newtown Environmental Fund (NEF) established... Any revenue raised... shall be deposited into the NEF... Any appropriations of funds from NEF shall be used solely for environmental sustainability or for infrastructure purposes."

What can residents do individually to reduce plastic consumption?

"We should all be using reusable bags," Ms Villamil said. "We can bring our own reusable cups when we get coffee, use our own water bottles."

She said, "It seems like a small drop but we would save millions of bags in our town in a year. If we use a cloth bag, that works out to about 288 plastic bags a year, per cloth bag."

Also in order to avoid plastic, she uses a bamboo toothbrush and compostable dental floss. "I also use reusable produce bags," Ms Villamil said.

Thinking of the next generation, she said, "If we are going to help them solve the problems we are leaving them with, we must first stop adding to those problems."

Page two of the Plastic Bags Reduction Ordinance
Page one of the Plastic Bags Reduction Ordinance
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