Plastic Bag Ban Sponsors Respond

In 2008, RTM members Jonathan Cunitz, Liz Milwe, Gene Seidman and Jeff Weiser sponsored the “retail bag ordinance” banning plastic bags in Westport. In response to today’s post about the new CVS bags, they sent this message to “06880”:

RTMWe remain proud of the enlightened action that the Westport RTM took 7 years ago to act responsibly with regard to plastic bags. Ever since Mel Sorcher and Don Wergeles first brought their concerns to our attention, and after nearly a year of organizing, engaging the community, and legislating, the RTM overwhelmingly passed the Plastic Bag Ordinance by a vote of 26-5 on September 2, 2008.

We have been gratified by the strong support that our Plastic Bag Ordinance has gained in the town. It also is gratifying to note that while the ordinance was inspired by a similar, earlier ordinance in San Francisco, ours has been a guide for a number of other towns that have adopted ordinances since 2009.

We conservatively estimate that the town of Westport has eliminated 15 million plastic bags from circulating in our environment, creating a problem in our rivers, Long Island Sound, the Atlantic and beyond. Many Westporters say they are very proud that our town has the distinction of being a leader in the environmental movement, by being the first town east of the Mississippi to ban plastic bags at retail.

CVS bag 1

The CVS bag shown and mentioned in your article this morning directly and intentionally circumvents the spirit of the Plastic Bag Ordinance. While the CVS bag may be technically “legal,” it is certainly contrary to the intention of the law. It’s a way for the plastics industry to stay in the business of providing unnecessary bags.

It is worth noting that the only way plastic shopping bags can be recycled is if the consumer returns them to a grocery store. The recycling rates at grocery stores are well below 10%. The CVS bags will jam Westport’s single-stream recycling machines and continue to be a nuisance, stymying Westport’s recycling efforts.

Westporters have gotten used to bringing reusable bags to the grocery store — and they’ll get used to bringing reusable bags to CVS and Walgreens, all the while being responsible and proud citizens of the environment.

We know that even little efforts make great impact, and show our children that we care about the environment. The plastic bag ban has proven to be successful and should continue to be enforced.. CVS will respond to public pressure. So, next time when you are in CVS, just say no to their plastic bags!


40 responses to “Plastic Bag Ban Sponsors Respond

  1. Stephanie Bass

    ..ok, let’s get real here, folks; CVS sucks in general; there’s that guy who’s the manager and hasn’t smiled in the last 14 years; and they only stopped selling cigarettes a few months ago and took out big ads saying how fabulous they are — a totally financial decision having nothing to do with the health of their patrones; and let’s not even get into how awful the prescription department is to deal with……

    • Tracy Flood

      The pharmacy is terrible, yes! And the manager doesn’t smile, ever. But he hires and maintains a very diverse, may I say quirky group of people whom I’ve grow to absolutely adore. Chris knows me by name and asks me about my husband by name. He types in my phone number before I say it. Mitch helps me with all sorts of photo question, and keeps me laughing through the process. This decision about the bags didn’t get made at a local level. The folks there have agreed when I asked about it. If we continue to bring our reusable bags, and some of us contact their corporate office, we can probably have an impact.

      I think they are losing money on cigarettes…. Haven’t googled it, but seems like lots of people bought them there.

  2. Jeff Wieser

    Seven years ago, CVS, Westport was an early and enthusiastic adopter of the ordinance, using paper bags earlier than they had to. Makes this change even more disappointing.

  3. Does anyone know where can we recycle all those plastic bags we get from out of town or the dry cleaner? – Chris Woods

    • Stop and Shop collects plastic bags for recycling in their bottle return room.

  4. Jeff Arciola

    Get a life people. Really

  5. Sharon Paulsen

    Ummm … Let’s see … Simple solution … Just don’t use those bags they provide, hmmm?

    If you are of the camp of bringing your own reusables, well then, just keep doing that, and get on with it. (That’s what I do). And if you really care about the bag issue and our environment, then do the same thing when you shop retail – no more GAP bags, Tiffany bags, Anthropologie bags .. am I right?

    We all know how corporate works. It’s “in” to be ECO-this-that-and-the-other-thing. Much of it is crapola. Just be smart and do what you think is right, and do it consistently – across the board … Everywhere! Our environment is going down the toilet, and our consumerism habits need to adjust to the problem at hand.
    One tiny step ….

  6. Nancy W Hunter

    If recycling is so difficult to understand, one would cringe to wonder what would happen in a drought.

    • Sharon Paulsen

      Well yes, good point Nancy, because there ARE water shortages, drought, and irreversible pollution of water going on all over the world.

      Spoiler: Rant to follow … (Not at you Nancy – just to the general public at large 😉).

      Don’t get me started on fracking. We wouldn’t need to be decimating our earth core for water if we had protected what we already had, readily available, in abundance, above the rock line. Ugh!

      We’ve seen on the news how folks in the CA hills still like to water their lawns in the middle of a serious water crisis. And let’s not forget the precious golf courses. We all gotta have SOMEPLACE to hit our little white balls around, don’t we? (Sorry avid golfer’s – I’m mad at the world right now).

      But, I DO think most people “get” how the recycling system works … And, it’s not quite perfect yet, since many plastic bags (think bread bags, bags that hold the bulk apples and potatoes, etc. from the grocery store, bags containing personal hygiene products, and the afore mentioned dry cleaning bags and such) cannot run through the recycling stream in many or most facilities across the nation. All that toxic crap goes right into the landfills and oceans, and it’s downright sickening to me. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, environmentally speaking.

      We all remember that whole “paper or plastic” choice we were given at the grocery stores way back when? When did that ever make a real difference? Which evil would one choose? Deforestation or poisoning of our planet? Way to go, grocery store conglomerate marketing ploys.
      Who feels better now? Anyone? Bueller?

      Okay, sorry for my rants and snarks people, but, I’m “mad as hell” … etc.

      Our planet is in trouble. A local initiative to ban baggies is a start, but seems tepid, at best, when it culls the masses into thinking it’s all “okay” now.

      • Nancy W Hunter

        All excellent points, Sharon. Then, there is also the issue of food waste… it’s amazing how much of it ends up in landfills (we have a Green Can program here that transfers food scraps to a city compost, which then is used by landscapers, etc.).
        As far as water, we’re now in Stage 3 of a 4 stage water shortage response plan (and this is the Rainforest!). I don’t understand why Washington, Oregon and especially California haven’t followed suit.

        • Sharon Paulsen

          Hmm, interesting Nancy, about the water initiatives.

          And I love that compost program idea. That should be done in all the states.

          Are the wildfires also affecting where you live?

          • Nancy W Hunter

            Yes indeed. Fire suppression is a crucial reason for water restrictions.
            Most people seem to be complying (brown lawns are quite evident, as are parks and golf courses).
            My advice: get yourself a rain barrel!

            • Sharon Paulsen

              Ah yes, rain barrels! Good point Nancy.
              I’ve been thinking about that lately, even though I’m in a non-drought, non-water-crisis area (for now, lol).

      • Golf R Dude

        FYI: Most if not all golf courses use effluent and collected (pond) water and are not part of, or minimally, the problem (most certainly in our part of the world). The are also a significant source of regional oxygen and homes for animals that are crowded out by development.

        • Sharon Paulsen

          If wide swathes of mostly grass do in fact help oxygenate the air, then that’s one good thing. Trees, I believe, would do a better job at that however. 😉


    If CVS was able to say “no” to cigarettes, they should be able to say no to plastic bags. This is our town, and our law. We don’t want plastic bags in Westport…..period….not even “reusable” plastic which circumvents the intent of our law.
    CVS can be encouraged to get rid of their bags if their customers complain and insist upon it.
    Or if the negative publicity gets bad enough and corporate takes notice, the plastic will be gone.
    We just have to say something every time we shop there.
    BTW, Walgreens uses paper.

  8. How about not shopping at CVS entirely in protest?

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      I would say to shop at Colonial Druggist over by Fresh Markets… not even in protest over plastic bags, but for the fantastic nature of the customer service and quality of medical service they provide! The pharmacists there will bend over backwards to assist, and I have only great things to say about their care of the people in our community.

  9. Jerry MacDaid

    I find this incredibly amusing.

    I am largely indifferent to the conclusion of the debate as both plastic and paper bags each have their own environmental issues (which the anti-plastic lobby would choose to ignore) while reusable bags also have their own issues and, based on my observation of behaviors at various grocery stores, are used by only a small minority of folks.

    In any event, several years ago the “Gang of Four” (solely based on the count of names provided by Dan) wrote and passed an ordinance banning certain types of plastic bags. They, of course, framed it as being completely reasonable in that they weren’t banning “all” plastic bags but only “bad” plastic bags, permitting in the ordinance certain types of plastic bags containing recycled materials since what made the “bad” bags bad couldn’t exactly be said about ones made from recycled material. All the while, apparently, smugly thinking that no one would actually figure out a way to make plastic bags from recycled material and that they had effectively banished all plastic bags from Westport forever.

    Now, much to their chagrin, someone figured out a way to manufacture plastic bags from 80% post consumer materials meeting the criteria that they previously suggested, given how they wrote the ordinance, were “acceptable” plastic bags. They now, bizarrely, say that the CVS bag “…directly and intentionally circumvents the spirit of the Plastic Bag Ordinance.”

    SAY WHAT???? YOU wrote the ordinance. YOU defined what would be acceptable. If YOU had intended “no plastic bags, period, end of story” which now seems to be the real “spirit” of the ordinance, YOU could have and should have written it that way and insisted that is how it had to be passed. YOU should have been shouting at the top of your lungs “NO PLASTIC BAGS OR DEATH.”

    But, of course, you didn’t, and the ordinance got enacted defining what was an acceptable plastic bag. And now, like the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz, you are dumbfounded that Dorothy actually figured out how to bring you the Wicked Witch of the West’s broomstick, in the process uncovering what you are and what you did. Like the wizard, perhaps kind-hearted and well-meaning but, apparently, frauds.

    In the old days I believe this would be referred to as “being hoisted on one’s own petard”.

    Which I find exceedingly amusing.

    • Chris Grimm


      And – to further the point – a 80% post-consumer plastic bag, that can be reused sounds pretty sensible, once we get beyond the “paper good, plastic bad” drumbeat, without even considering the possibility that it could be an environmentally sensible option (in terms of many aspects – not just how low one bag lasts in one landfill, but the reduction in bags, the reduction in energy use needed to create fewer bags, etc).

  10. Arline Gertzoff

    I have used reusable bags long before the ban. However it is not only CVS.The Goodwill has only plastic as does trendy LR downtown. I have not seen any paper bags at the dry cleaner or delivered newspapers Furthermore the surrounding towns all use plastic bags.The prize for using the most plastic bags goes to Shoprite in Norwalk. I happily repeat no plastic when I shop there. So gather all your plastic bags and stuff them in the recycle bin and let’s move on to another topic. Finally clean off the handles of your reusable bags once in a while as they are great germ breeders I a

  11. I just returned from Sonoma, California. When shopping there, I was charged 10-15 cents extra every time i took a PAPER bag!
    That really cut down on my own consumption and made me think about waste.

  12. Chris Grimm

    The ordinance was a symbolic measure of little substance. For instance it did not require paper bags to be made from post-consumer materials. There are certainly good arguments for both – but we needed to pass an ordinance to feel good about ourselves.

    As the saying goes, reduce, reuse, recycle. And if you can reuse a plastic bag, it often makes more sense than paper (recalling Tom Feeley’s two problems presentation – “poop and soup”). I also recall someone at the RTM debate saying (pardon my paraphrasing) “this is so obvious that we don’t need evidence.” Yeah, that is always a good approach to policy making.

    To the “what about the dry cleaning bags?” question – if you have a dog they are perfect!

    If people want to shop at Walgreens, which famously talked of moving their HQ overseas to reduce taxes, they can go ahead – and then remind themselves how progressive a decision that is.

    If you want paper, ask for paper. If you want plastic, ask for plastic.. If you want to bring your own canvas bag, feel free. Always seemed like an easy choice to leave in the hands of the consumer – like every other municipality in the state of Connecticut.

    • Tom Feeley Sr

      Hi Chris…This just in!
      Feel Good and Politically Correct may merge, but can’t agree on a name. “Feel Correct” is ahead for now. Stay tuned 😜

  13. Rich Bourne

    Solid Points Chris.

    I wish paper was better but it has its problems, some report:

    Its production takes 4 times more energy, 3 times more water, creates 80% more greenhouse gases and sadly its disposal results in 80% more solid waste.

    On the other hand plastic photo-degrades not bio-degrades and may take up to 500 to 1000 years to break down if not recycled. Its an alarming statistic but looked at in whole, here in the northeast with our limitation on landfills, is it possible plastic may be the better answer.

    • Very true, Rich – which is why I think that a more productive approach is educating people so that they make the right decisions for themselves, rather than being the nanny in Town Hall.

      Look at the unintentionally condescending reply from the group of four, which is basically “iif you go to CVS exercise your choice! But we don’t want you to exercise your choice at other stores, because we’ve taken away your choice so you can just do what we want you to do.”

  14. A reminder of the depth (or lack thereof) of the discussion on the plastic bag ban. Not much has changed.

  15. Brett Aronow

    Granted I don’t use CVS Pharmacy, I find their management extremely friendly as well as their staff. Did anyone ask them to change their policy for Westport. And to the bag comments, I really believe that the change has made MANY people, not all, rethink, and use their reusable bags. It really is easy to use them, you just have to remember to put them in the car and then to take them out at the grocery stores as well as the CVS type stores.

  16. Tracy Flood
    We can all just jot a note off to them and I bet they’ll reconsider. It typically doesn’t take many calls or notes to politicians or corporations for them to feel like it’s a “problem.”

  17. Not wanting to point fingers but Tarry Lodge’s uses the same type of plastic bags for takeout.

  18. Chris Grimm

    Interesting tha a vendor at today’s Westport Farmer’s Market gave me my stuff in a plastic bag.

    Easier to feign outrage about a national chain than a local food producer at our beloved market! Maybe the bag police want to swing by there next week?

    I’m as progressive as the come – but nothing makes my brain hurt like the passion of the willfully uninformed – except, maybe, hypocrisy.

    • Nancy W Hunter

      Didn’t you offer your cloth, reusable bag first?

      • Well I don’t want to out any of the fine independent vendors at the market! How does whether or not I had a reusable bag impact whether or not a vender was breaking the ordinance? (Something CVS would seem to NOT be doing.)

        (I did have my reusable bag – but I accepted the offered plastic bag so that I could keep this particular item separate from all of my fresh vegetables! Another sensible reason for using plastic on certain occasions!)

        By the way, I also got some lemonade that seemed to come with a paper-based straw – and I’m here to tell you, there is nothing that is as useless as a paper straw!

        Anyway, I don’t want to state the obvious, because I have given my opinion as to why we passed the ordinance. But in a town full of McMansions and luxury cars, where people run automatic sprinklers (no matter the weather) and climate control huge houses, we passed an ordinance effectively banning plastic bags because we are SO concerned about the environment. It was a perfect storm of hypocrisy and idiocy. But we’re proud to be so virtuous! Next thing you know, we’ll be giving a diversity award, because we have such a diverse population of wealthy white people. Oh, wait, we already do have a diversity award.

        • Tom Feeley Sr

          Well said Chris ! 🐅 😂

        • Nancy W Hunter

          You accepted the plastic bag for a perfectly good reason. Everyone does. (wouldn’t want the shellfish swimming around in the leeks and zucchini!)
          However, the more times reusable bags are offered to a vendor, the fewer non-reusable bags will be offered to the buyer.
          Seems that it is the responsibility of the buyer to make a difference.

          And yes, paper straws, plastic straws too, are ridiculous. As are wooden chopsticks!

          • Sharon Paulsen

            Soooo true about personal efforts to further the recycling/renewable mindset at large.

            But oohhh, I do love those wooden chopsticks for the rare sushi indulgences. (Heck, they can be saved up and used as kindling to start up a nice little BBQ fire perhaps).

            • Nancy W Hunter

              Never thought to use them as kindling! Great idea!
              Still, it’d be good to follow in David Suzuki’s steps by carrying one’s own if you eat Asian food daily. Perhaps easier said than done!

  19. Sharon Paulsen

    Yup, Nancy, I’m always trying to think of ways to recycle the so called extraneous things that exist in our “use once” mentality world.

    It’s like a refined version of the Depression era, where my grandparents were quite innovative, way beyond the “Victory Garden” and composting basics.

    But I’m also not a fanatical tree hugger type either. Just trying to be smart and aware – that seems to be the key. Trust me, I love my indulgences, but remain wary of the cost to our planet (to a fault these days, it seems). And the notion of indulgences, for me, has changed dramatically since my younger days in Westport. A fresh, organic (truly organic), non-GMO, pesticide free tomato, for instance, is now quite an indulgence!

  20. Proco Joe Moreno, 1st, one of the law’s lead sponsors, said it’s unfortunate that some retailers are responding with more plastic that technically complies with the ordinance but not its spirit, which was to change behavior so that people bring their own bag.