Tag Archives: Single-use plastic

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.

 

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.