The New Britain Common Council wants the city to join other communities across the country that have banned single-use plastic bags. On Wednesday, it forwarded a resolution to the Committee on Administration, Finance and Law to phase out the bags that are commonly used by grocery stores, drug stores and other shops.
The new ordinance would prohibit retailers from selling, providing or distributing non-reusable plastic bags in their establishments. The resolution would also prohibit retailers from providing paper bags unless they are recycled or recyclable in some way. Retailers wishing to provide paper bags to customers must sell them for $0.10 each.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, single use plastic bags can take anywhere from 20 to 500 years to decompose in landfills. Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year. Of those, only 1 percent of bags are recycled. Because the percentage of recycled single-use plastic bags is so low, the remaining bags end up in landfills or polluting waterways, oceans and land. Up to 80 percent of plastic pollution enters the ocean from land, the website noted adding that 100,000 marine animals die as a result of plastic pollution each year. The bags don’t break down completely but instead photo-degrade, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment.
If the proposal becomes a law, a number of individuals and businesses could be impacted. For supermarkets such as Big Y, it may not be difficult to adapt to the proposal since the chain is also aiming to ban single use plastic bags in its 70 establishments by the end of 2020.
Some local business owners don’t mind adapting to the change because they see it as a way to help the environment.
JD Diaz, owner of C Town Supermarket in New Britain said that prohibiting retailers from using non-reusable plastic bags is a good idea.
“I think that whatever is earth friendly, it’s better for us,” Diaz said. “It just takes getting people accustomed to it. We have some of the bags here in the front of the store that are the reusable bags and we try to push that to see if customers could actually use those instead of using the normal bags. We have actually had meetings in corporate and they are kind of deciding to do the same.”
If the law passes, the question some retailers may ask is what do we do with all of the single use bags we already have? C Town Supermarkets seem to already have a plan.
“The same company that provides us with the single use bags, they also sell the reusable ones,” Diaz said. “It would just be an exchange. That already has been spoken about with that company. They just want to exchange whatever we have with the reusable bags. So if we have 100 cases of bags or whatever that equals to in money, they’ll exchange it for the reusable ones. The reusable bags are more expensive. It’s better for us. We don’t have to give these bags here every day. We go through tons and tons of boxes of bags.”
Tracy Schneider, owner of Bricks and Minifigs in Southington, doesn’t think that a plastic bag ban will affect her business. She said sometimes they use cardboard boxes instead of bags if someone buys larger items.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Schneider said. “It might be a little less convenient but I have kids and they have to grow up in this world and I’m sure they are going to have kids some day so I’d like them to have a clean planet to leave in.”
Other local retailers are not too happy with the proposal. Naji Jahas said his family has three different businesses in the city; one of them is J & J Pawn Shop.
“We use a lot of plastic bags. What’s the matter with these people? What’s the next thing they are going to do? Are they going to tell us what to eat? I’m against it. I think this is stupid. I think this will affect a lot of people. Plastic bags are easy to carry, easy to have. They are one of the cheapest things.”
Walgreens has had to deal with similar prohibitions in other parts of the country.
“For that, the only thing we do is we fully comply with the law,” Laura Hayes, Walgreens’ director of retail communications, said. “If it’s a city ordinance and a law of it is passed, we always are fully compliant with that.”
Other Connecticut cities and towns such as Stamford and Norwalk have advanced plastic bag ban ordinances.
A reusable cloth bag costs a $1 at the Dollar Tree, but even cheaper deals could be found online.
“I don’t mind bringing my own bag,” Grace Wilson, of New Britain said. “It’s probably good for the environment because plastics don’t dissolve.”
Joe Grabowski said he agrees with the proposal as he walked into the Dollar Tree.
“It’s less bags, each time I get too many, I don’t know what to do with them,” Grabowski said.
Vilma Miranda, on the other hand said she doesn’t agree with the proposal.
“I like come here and not have to bring my own bags,” Miranda said. “I recycle them. I put them in my car.”
Miranda is aware that the bags could affect the environment.
“But we still need them,” she said.
The conversation didn’t go too far before Ivelisse, Miranda’s daughter stepped in and convinced her of the opposite.
“That’s better, no single use bags,” Ivelisse said.
The resolution would be effective six months after its adoption to give retailers a chance to dispose of their current single-use plastic bags and convert to alternative materials.
Karla Santos can be reached at 860-801-5079 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Skyler Frazer contributed to this story.