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Council To Consider Plastic Shopping Bag Ban Following June 5 Hearing



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Thirteen months after a proposed ban on most, if not all, retail use of plastic shopping bags was formally taken up for consideration, the Legislative Council will hold a public hearing on a related ordinance that was recently recommended, before weighing the pros and cons of such an action. The public hearing regarding the Draft Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance is Wednesday, June 5, at 7 pm, in Council Chambers at the Newtown Municipal Center.

Among the many points council members will be considering are pro bag ban statistics provided to council members and The Newtown Bee from Newtown Environmental Action Team (NEAT) representative Lynn Hungaski. The elected leaders have also been provided a recent report from NPR’s Planet Money newsletter that outlines a number of reasons why such a ban could counter the environmental benefits that proponents hope to achieve.

The bag ban proposal includes language permitting reusable bags and/or recyclable paper bags, and would require “a business [to] charge at minimum a 10-cent user fee per paper bag.”

At a May 15 council meeting during which the council voted to send the proposed bag ban ordinance to a hearing, the majority of pushback came over that mandate to charge for paper bags, versus the many environmental concerns offered by NEAT on eliminating plastic bags from Newtown’s waste stream.

Councilman Phil Carroll suggested sending the ordinance proposal back to committee saying, “The town shouldn’t tell stores what to charge. If you want a ban, that’s one thing, but forcing people to pay?”

Councilman Dan Wiedemann agreed.

Ordinance Committee Chairman Knapp told The Newtown Bee that during the last ordinance meeting before sending the proposal to the full council that he made a motion to strike the user fee.

“But that was not successful,” he said. Mr Knapp added that some residents proposed creating a community-wide awareness campaign to help boost awareness of the pros and cons around plastic, paper, and reusable shopping bags, while NEAT members and supporters are advocating residents turn out to support the ordinance as proposed.

“It’s an emotionally charged and energized issue,” Mr Knapp said. “I’ve never seen this much public comment on anything — including a budget. I think we’re at about 150 e-mails to each member of the council.”

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal and Mr Knapp have both pointed out that statewide legislation might provide a better option, especially when it comes to companies that have stores in some communities with a ban and others without.

Residents who cannot attend the June 5 hearing may submit comment electronically beforehand by visiting newtown-ct.gov/technology-gis/webforms/contact-newtown-legislative-council.

Read the full feature in this week's print edition of The Newtown Bee - on local newsstands or subscribe by calling 203-426-3141 or by clicking HERE.

Depending on the outcome of a pending Legislative Council discussion following a public hearing June 5 on a proposed plastic shopping bag ordinance, this may be the scenario facing Newtown residents and retail shoppers.
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