Single-Use Plastics Ban: It’s Now The Law

Alert “06880” reader and RTM member Andrew Colabella writes:

As we embark on the 6-month anniversary of the first single-use plastics ban east of the Mississippi, I extend a big thank you on behalf of my co-sponsors: P3, the Conservation Department and Westport Weston Health District.

Last May, the Representative Town Meeting passed an ordinance that prohibits food establishments from distributing certain plastic food service containers to customers. Food products produced and packaged off-site are exempt.

We lead 46 states, along with cities in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. It takes a village to clean a village, but it takes a town to lead the world. Our intent was to lead with perseverance, ease, and informative alternatives to make the transition smooth.

On November 7, the ordinance took effect in Westport. This means that single- use plastic items such as straws, stirrers, plates, cups, to-go containers, and all expanded polystyrene products such as Styrofoam cannot be distributed to patrons of food service establishments in town.

However, PLA (plant-based) containers are allowed.  In addition, plastic straws will still be available upon request to those who need them for a medical or physical reason.

New straws at Pink Sumo.

The ordinance tried to be realistic in its wording, taking into consideration whether acceptable alternative options for certain products are available. This is why utensils are not covered under this ordinance: There are no viable, cost-effective alternatives readily available.

Plastic utensils for take-out orders are available upon request. Plastic lids are also allowed.

The purpose of the ordinance is to collectively change our behavior, to steer us away from increasing our individual carbon footprint, reducing waste, and incentivizing new product development. This should also result in the added benefit to our food service establishments of reducing their garbage output, and extending the length they hold inventory of these products.

Establishments throughout town have already started switching over to more sustainable serving products. However, the Conservation Department — which is responsible for enforcement — has agreed that all establishments which still have an inventory of single use plastic products may be allowed to use and distribute them past the November 7 date.

It would be counterproductive to force establishments to throw out products that can still serve a purpose. Please be patient and respectful of these businesses, as we all work together.

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

The transition will take time. You may note that some newer products look and feel like plastic, but actually are not. This polylactic acid material is a plant/leaf –based product allowed under the ordinance. PLA is beneficial because, if it is incinerated along with other garbage generated in Westport, no toxic fumes are emitted.

PLA is not recyclable with other recyclable plastics, but it is compostable under the right conditions. Unlike plastic which is made from petroleum, PLAs contain no benzene or styrene, which are carcinogenic products, and are made from a renewable resource.

Out of 78 million metric tons of plastic produced yearly, only 14% is actually recycled. At one time China, India, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and other Asian countries purchased our plastic recyclables. They have now ended up in their tributaries, creating floating garbage islands around the world.

These countries no longer accept our recycled plastic products. Westport has always led the East Coast as an agent of change for advancing environmental protection, education, innovation, safety, and reducing waste fiscally and physically. This ordinance is one more example of that effort.

As we change the way we use these products provided by our businesses, which are often disposed of frivolously, we are committed as a town to reduce our waste.

We also expect private industry to introduce more environmentally friendly, harmless alternative packaging products. In the end, reducing usage, reducing demand and increasing inventory lifespan will reduce our waste.


14 responses to “Single-Use Plastics Ban: It’s Now The Law

  1. S&S has an interesting retaliatory take on our ban…they now charge for paper bags at check out….wonder who will follow.

    • S&S starting charging for paper bags in all their stores state-wide, and it has nothing do to with Westport. The new CT law required them to charge for plastic bags, but instead they simply eliminated them entirely and started charging for paper (which wasn’t required, but also wasn’t prohibited). The Big Y chain also did the same. Now, all over Connecticut, you can see people going into the stores with their own bags. It’s about time.

    • Stew Leonards is also now charging. The rest will follow. bring your own bags.

      • Mark Y Stew Leonard’s is following the new city ordinance of 10 cents for a paper bag.
        All stores in Norwalk must follow the ordinance. (also Greenwich and Stamford along with others around the state who past a town city ordinance).
        At least Stew paper bags have decent handles on them other stores around Norwalk do not have this feature. Also those paper bags from Stew Leonard’s are 14 cents each. The higher the paper stock thickness, size and handle (paper or rope) increases the price of the paper bag (even if it’s bought in bulk). The higher the demand for paper bags has possibly caused a spike in price.
        This 10 cent charge has nothing to do with the Stew Leonard organization.

  2. Stores are still selling single use bottled water. Will they ever be in the ban?

  3. Mary Schmerker

    Thank you Westport for leading the way for others to follow.

  4. Great job. Can you please work on adding a .10, better yet .25 charge for using a paper bag from a store as is done in Norwalk. The environmental impact of tens of thousands of double bagged Trader Joe’s bags is unconscionable and not necessary. The charge works.

  5. The time for discouraging the use of plastic bags is long past due. It’s merely a spit in the ocean to start charging 10 cents, essentially irrelevant to most shoppers. The fee should be high enough to change behavior. How’s 50 Cents a bag? Bans must be placed on other plastic items such as beverage bottle as well. Why don’t we start with initiating a policy throughout our schools in Westport with a ban on all plastic containers including beverage bottles, trays and containers, and, to include the same policy at all school events? Having our children lead the way in establishing a community based environmental policy …a far more significant place to start than depending on Stop n Shop.

  6. Mr. Colabella you did a great job writing this post, thank you.

  7. Thank you and P3 for your hard work! Slowly we are all becoming more aware of our carbon footprint and what we can do to reduce it. I’m happy and very proud to say that Saugatuck Elementary School is 100% on board and has been composting since last Spring. We are educating our youngest citizens and in turn they are teaching the parents and teachers what we can do to be more environmentally responsible. I think the next BIG hurdle is banning the sale of plastic water bottles in the public schools.

  8. im sure trump and national regunlican party are proud. They are very concerned about the earth.

    • Your a proud Dummycrat. Maybe if the ignorant people of Connecticut will stop putting these dummucrats in office your state will become great again Mr Fogel.

  9. Funny you showed those straws at Pink Sumo. Just used one last week in a Mai Tai. I drink pretty fast, but I have to admit the drink out lived the straw! It was delicious and I did manage to get it all down.

    But overall a good idea!

  10. What about all those zillions of bags used for people’s dog poop and then tossed in the trash?