WASHINGTON — Washington became the first town in Litchfield County to ban single-use plastic bags at a town vote on Wednesday, April 17.
Washington joins five other Connecticut municipalities, including Greenwich, Norwalk, Stamford, Weston and Westport, that have already instituted similar bans.
“I first became interested in how waste from single-use plastic affects the environment back in 2009 as I was working on my master’s degree, before the movement to ban plastic really took off,” said Carrie Rowe, co-president of the Washington Environmental Council.
“With plastic bag bans now in effect all over the world, it was time to get Washington on board.”
With the help of the nonprofit organization, Bring Your Own CT, WEC began its campaign to ban single-use plastic bags in Washington.
“The town became a member of BYOCT. They have great resources, like guidelines and ‘roadmaps,’ available for towns interested in instituting bans on single-use plastic,” Rowe said.
The entire process took about a year and a half, from inception to vote.
“First, WEC brought the idea to First Selectman Mark Lyon and the Board of Selectmen. The selectmen then sought the input and support of the business community to figure out an ordinance that could work for everyone,” Rowe explained. “Once an ordinance was settled on, the selectman approved bringing it to a town vote.”
“There were about 150 people who attended the vote,” Rowe said. “Everyone unanimously voted in favor of the ban.”
Now that the ban on single-use plastic bags is in place, businesses have six months to implement it.
“We wanted to give businesses enough time to use up their existing inventory of bags,” Rowe said.
It will then be another six months before any fines would be issued to businesses that violate the ban.
So, what if you forget to bring your own bag to a store once the ban is in full effect?
“WEC would like to create a system, similar to the Little Free Library model, where business patrons can take a bag to use if they forgot one, then drop it back off at the same location at a later date,” Rowe said.
So far, community feedback has been positive and supportive.
“People are excited about this,” Rowe said. “They are glad that it has passed, and they are eager to learn more about how to live plastic-free.”
“Captain Moore, the marine researcher who first discovered the great Pacific garbage patch said, ‘Only we humans make waste that nature can’t digest,’” Rowe summed up.
“The whole idea was to raise the consciousness of the community, and I believe we have succeeded.”
For more information on YOCT visit www.byoct.