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Top Stories 2012: Darien Shoots Down Plastic Bag Ban

Nina Miller of Choose to Reuse in Darien urges residents to shop with reusable bags instead of plastic bags.
Nina Miller of Choose to Reuse in Darien urges residents to shop with reusable bags instead of plastic bags. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

DARIEN, Conn. – As 2012 draws to an end, The Darien Daily Voice is looking back at some of the top stories of the year.

On Sept. 24, Darien’s town government ended a years-long campaign to ban plastic shopping bags in town. The group Choose to Reuse in Darien had brought forward a proposed ordinance that would have prevented merchants from carrying the bags in favor of paper or reusable shopping bags. The ordinance was ultimately defeated by the Representative Town Meeting in a 46-36 vote.

Choose to Reuse had started with the aim of educating people about the dangers that plastic shopping bags pose to the environment. More than 100 billion plastic bags are thrown away every year in the United States, causing the deaths of more than 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals, its members said. They held presentations at the Darien Nature Center, spoke with storeowners and worked to educate the public about why the shopping bags shouldn’t be used.

The group realized that education wasn’t enough. It took cues from Westport, where plastic shopping bags had successfully been banned, and sought to get Darien’s town government to enact a similar ordinance. Members of Choose to Reuse went before each town board and gave a presentation on why the bags should be outlawed in Darien and why government action was the only way to get it done.

Choose to Reuse garnered a lot of support but also a lot of opposition. Storeowners said a mandatory ban would hurt their bottom lines and said reusable bags were on the rise in town. Others took issue with what they saw as unnecessary government intervention into their personal lives. Some worried that a ban on plastic bags would begin a slippery slope to more government control over businesses in town.

Even though the ordinance was ultimately voted down, members of Choose to Reuse said they would still educate Darien residents on the dangers posed by plastic bags.

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