Single-Use Plastic: What You Can Do

Alert — and environmentally conscious — “06880” reader Bob Weingarten writes:

In 2008 Westport passed an ordinance banning single-use plastic shopping bags. At that time it was the most extensive ban on plastic bags in the U.S. Since then we have assisted many other communities in their efforts to ban plastic bags.

Last month our RTM voted unanimously to ban single-use plastic cups, straws, stirrers and Styrofoam materials used in food services. Westport is believed to be the first municipality on the East Coast with such a ban.

Westport is ahead of the times in considering bans of plastic bags and single-use plastic products. We appear to be the most forward-looking town in Connecticut in plastic usage. But are we celebrating our efforts a bit too early?

According to the EPA, 12% of the municipal solid waste stream is plastics. Only 8% of all plastic products are recycled.

The most recognized single-use plastics items are plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles, but there are many more ordinary items. They include plastic bags for vegetable and fruit packaging; meat, poultry, dairy and fish products; packaging for fresh flowers and dry cleaning items; doggy waste bags and much more.

Single-use plastic is everywhere. (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Why worry? The EPA only attributes 12% of our solid waste to plastic products.  This sounds small, but we need to consider where this 12% is placed.

Most of the plastics go to municipal waste sites. But they go in the ocean too. Recently, 180 countries reached an agreement to sharply reduce the amount of plastic that gets washed into the world’s oceans. The US was a major holdout.

An estimated 100 million tons of plastic is now found in the oceans. Some of that is ingested by fish. We know where that goes next.

What can we do to preserve our environment, since new regulations take lots of time? We can continue to voice our opinion for legislative support to ban single-use plastic products. This will cost more, but in the end will benefit us, our children and grandchildren.

In the interim we can take steps to recycle single-use plastics today, by chopping it into pellets. They can be reprocessed into new bags, and can be shipped to a company to be manufactured into plastic lumber.

Right now, our Westport transfer station does not provide recycling bins for plastic items.

But one place in Westport does provide plastic recycle bins: both entrances to Stop & Shop.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

I’ve only found one other plastic recycle bin in our area: Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk.

Care must be taken with these bins.

There cannot be any paper labels on the plastic — even pricing information — because the paper interferes with the chopping process.

Also, plastic with bright color imprints is not good for chopping. Do not include those products.

Some people may not know what to do with single-use plastic products. I hope this information helps.

25 responses to “Single-Use Plastic: What You Can Do

  1. Does this mean that we should not be putting these single use plastic items into our large green recycling bins that is taken away by our refuse collector?

  2. We might, on the surface, appear to be forward thinking about the environment. But not so much when you consider how we treat our open spaces. Got 1000 yards of dirty fill and construction debris from the Senior Center expansion project? Don’t care to properly dispose of it? No problem. Just dump it all in Barons South Park and let the runoff contaminate the Saugatuck River. When caught, fabricate several different conflicting cover stories, publicly denigrate the citizen whistleblower and order all town employees to go silent. Where’s the recycling bin for that?

  3. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    The answer to single use plastic bags is to find multiple uses for them. As the Greatest Generation taught us (if we were paying attention) “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without” There. Problem solved. No draconian measures necessary. Pax Vobiscum.

  4. Richard Hyman

    It requires continuous reinforcement, visibility and education.

    Check out what P3.org is doing. https://p3-wpt.org

    However, as recent as last week, local food service providers continue to serve plastic straws, without even having asked for one, e.g. Gold’s, Sherwood Diner, Granola Bar. Last weekend Granola brought me a straw, a plastic cup, and a top for my plastic cup – when I was eating in/sitting down! I told the bus boy they need to get rid of the straws. He said “yea, we get that a lot”.

    • Arline Gertzoff

      The ban does not go into effect for six months which would be Nov approximately.Establishments have been encouraged to use up supplies.
      Furthermore the Community Resources Recovery Authority Sent out a colorful one page flyer saying what can and cannot go in the recycle bin Plastic bags cannot nor can motor oil pots and pans batteries plastic bags flower pots plastic toys light bulbs or drinking glasses
      Recycling questions go to Public works or solid waste department

  5. Arline Gertzoff

    Sorry but Walmart’s has giant bins to take plastic bags from any store as does Shoprite in Norwalk

  6. Bob Weingarten

    Arline, don’t be sorry about informing everyone about giant bins around Westport but we only have one store in Westport, that I know about, that has the bins.

  7. Michelle Scher Saunders

    We attend movies at the Bow Tie Cinemas in Westport on a regular basis and I am very upset since they do not have any recycling bins for paper, water/soda bottles & the plastic from the food products which they sell. The staff gets asked questions about recycling all the time and they just shrug their shoulders in response. I have written a letter to the management of Bow Tie and awaiting their response. Are commercial entities in Westport excluding from recycling rules? Will this new rule impact on their responsibility to recycle items short of just simply reducing their use of plastic straws & lids?

    • Unfortunately, Bow Tie Cinemas are in Norwalk, not Westport. So they do not have to follow Westport’s rules. (Legally, that is. Environmental concerns are another thing entirely.)

  8. I believe that the only plastics allowed in these recycle bins are films, such as dry cleaners’ bags, food storage bags and produce bags.
    For those of us close to Norwalk, Walmart has a bin for films.

  9. If we can’t recycle plastic flower pots or drinking glasses, then what should we do with them? I hate to see them wind up in a landfill for hundreds of years.

    • Cristina Negrin

      My recyclables are picked up with the household trash (separated) and what I’m not sure of like the plastic flower pots and trays I lay nest to it and they appropriately put the questionable items where they go in this case recycle 🙂

    • Dick Lowenstein

      I thought if the item has a triangle with a number in it, it is recyclable..and that includes clean flower pots and drinking cups. Maybe someone from Westport DPW can enlighten us.

  10. Bob Weingarten

    I’m not positive but there are bins at the transfer station in Westport which accepts plastic but not plastic bags. You may want to check.

  11. Cristina Negrin

    I thought the recycle plastic bags bins at Stop & Shop are for plastic bags only not plastic film and other stuff?

  12. The bin at Stop & Shop accepts all types of plastic bags and plastic film, including dry cleaner bags, fruit and vegetable bags, shrink wrap and any thin plastic film with NO paper labels on it. For more information like this follow Westport’s new Sustainability channel, formerly the Green Task Force. Follow @sustainablewestport (instagram) and Sustainable Westport (Facebook). Every Tuesday we run a feature called “Take It Back Tuesday,” telling residents where they can deposit unwanted items safely and sustainably.

  13. The bin at Stop & Shop accepts all types of plastic bags and plastic film, including dry cleaner bags, shrink wrap and any thin plastic film with NO paper labels on it. For more information like this follow Westport’s new Sustainability channel, formerly the Green Task Force. Follow @sustainablewestport (instagram) and Sustainable Westport (Facebook). Every Tuesday we run a feature called Take It Back Tuesday, telling residents where they can deposit unwanted items safely and sustainably.

  14. Here is the link to what you can and can’t recycle. Boy was I surprised!
    https://sustainablewestport.org/recycling

  15. The Village Market in Wilton has the same recycle bin out front as well. And they are one of the few grocery stores that will actually pay you $.05 if you bring your own bag.

  16. Bob Weingarten

    Reading the Post this morning, June 11, saw the following article: Can.’s plastics – ban plan. The article stated the following:
    Canada will ban single-use plastics as early as 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday.
    He said the specific products to be banned will be determined based on a scientific review, but the government is considering water bottles, plastic bags and straws. etc. etc.

  17. Brenda Waldron

    Actually, the blue & white stripped straws as well as the pink & white stripped straws in the picture look like the paper or vegetable straws that you can now buy to replace plastic ones.

  18. Brenda Waldron

    Actually, the blue & white stripped straws as well as the pink & white stripped straws in the picture look like the ones made out of paper or vegetables that you can use instead of plastic.

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