Category Archives: Local politics

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.

 

Pic Of The Day #941

First Selectman Jim Marpe (right) and artist Mark Yurkiw, at at the PoP’TArt pop-up gallery , 1 Main Street. The current show — with plenty of provocative work — is called “Words Matter.”

Did You Vote?

Yesterday was Election Day.

In mid-afternoon, Darcy Hicks posted this on Facebook:

I just drove a neighbor who needed a ride because she got home from surgery one hour before, and she wanted to get to the polls before her anesthetic wore off.

She was determined, as an American, a Vietnam veteran, and someone who took an oath to serve this country, to vote. I was so humbled and honored to meet her, and she made me so proud to be an American. If she can do it, shaky, in pain, so can you. Exercise your right to vote!

Lisa Alter soon added this:

The lovely Westport resident I drove to the polls this morning walked with a cane and some difficulty – and she managed to get there and vote. Please, everyone: Exercise your right to vote.

Turnout here yesterday — for an election that will help determine the future of our middle schools, redistricting, affordable housing, the vitality of downtown, taxes, and much more — was about 33%.

That’s right: One of you voted. Two others did not.

That’s embarrassing.

And shameful.

Here’s my two cents: If you were eligible to vote yesterday, but found some reason not to, you forfeit your right to criticize any political decision made in town for the next 2 years.

Elections have consequences. Every vote counts.

Did we count yours?

 

Good Morning, Olivia!

A couple of years ago, Westporter Olivia Cohn invented Happy Ride. The personal air vent cured car sickness — while not bothering other passengers.

She was in 4th grade at the time.

Happy Ride earned her a National Invention Convention medal.

Her video was posted on YouTube. A producer at “Good Morning America” saw it, and loved it.

He contacted Coleytown Elementary School. Administrators did not give out her number. So the producer reached out to Town Hall; Olivia’s dad Neil is on the website, as a Planning & Zoning Commission alternate.

Flash forward to today. Olivia — now a Bedford Middle School 6th grader — was on “Good Morning America’s” 3rd hour. It’s called “GMA3 Strahan, Sara & Keke,” and airs at 1 p.m. on the East Coast.

All week long, GMA is featuring inventors. On Friday she’ll be on again, with the other 4.

Olivia, her invention (left) and the “Good Morning America” hosts.

Olivia continues to do great things. She’s very involved in sciences, and solving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

She’s also part of a worldwide group called Girls In Science 4SDGs. Click here for one of her great posts.

The group will help moderate the UN’s annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science next February.

You go, girls! Especially our hometown inventor, Olivia Cohn.

(Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)

Olivia Cohn, on TV.

Click below for a bootleg version of Olivia’s appearance. It has not yet been shown on the West Coast! Click here for the official version.

 

Want To Know Who Won?

“06880” provides many services. Quick election night results is not one of them.

Fortunately, the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s office does. To find results for any town in Connecticut — after the polls close at 8 p.m. — click here.  Then:

  • Select the 11/05/2019 Election from the top drop-down menu
  • Select Your County
  • Select Your Town
  • Celebrate or commiserate accordingly.

Turnout was light this morning, at the Westport Library.

“06880” Persona Interview: Board Of Education Candidate Youn Su Chao

“06880” continues our series of “Persona” video interviews with candidates for local office. Rob Simmelkjaer produces these, as part of his new venture that helps users create casual, interesting conversational videos.

Today’s interview is with Democratic Board of Education candidate Youn Su Chao. Saugatuck Elementary School PTA member Jen Berniker conducted the interview. Click below:

To see all other Persona conversations, click here.

“06880” Persona Interview: Board Of Education Candidate Lee Goldstein

“06880” continues our series of “Persona” video interviews with candidates for local office. Rob Simmelkjaer produces these, as part of his new venture that helps users create casual, interesting conversational videos.

Today’s interview is with Democratic Board of Education candidate Lee Goldstein. Saugatuck Elementary School PTA member Jen Berniker conducted the interview. Click below:

To see all other Persona conversations, click here.

“06880” Persona Interview: Board Of Education Candidate Liz Heyer

“06880” continues our series of “Persona” video interviews with candidates for local office. Rob Simmelkjaer produces these, as part of his new venture that helps users create casual, interesting conversational videos.

Today’s interview is with Republican Board of Education candidate Liz Heyer. Click below:

To see all other Persona conversations, click here.

Court Hands Hiawatha Lane Developer Another Setback

The long-running saga of a developer’s plan to build 187 housing units on Hiawatha Lanethe narrow road nestled between Saugatuck Avenue and I-95 exit 17 — has taken another turn.

The state Appellate Court ruled that Westport’s Water Pollution Control Authority appropriately exercised its discretion to deny the developer — Summit Saugatuck — an application for a sewer connection.

Applications for sewer connections had been denied by other bodies as well, including the Planning & Zoning Commission and Board of Selectmen.

The Appellate Court ruling is a major victory for the town.

Summit may refile their application. They may also appeal to the state Supreme Court.

But as of today, they do not have permission to extend the sewer — or build on what is already a narrow, difficult to access piece of land, with some of the most affordable housing in Westport.

Summit Saugatuck’s proposal for 187 housing units on Hiawatha Lane.

“06880” Persona Interview: Board Of Finance Candidate Nancie Dupier

“06880” continues our series of “Persona” video interviews with candidates for local office. Rob Simmelkjaer produces these, as part of his new venture that helps users create casual, interesting conversational videos.

Today’s interview is with Democratic Board of Finance candidate Nancie Dupier. Click below:

To see all the Persona candidate interviews — and others — click here.