The town’s legislative body passed its version of a plastic bag ban, a law that has becomes largely ceremonial in light of the state legislature passing its version that will start its impact in August.
The local ordinance passed without objection, and only one abstention.
In committee, there was debate on the matter of local retailers charging for paper bags, as Republicans wanted to use the word “may,” allowing but not demanding, retailers charge for paper bag use. The current wording was proposed by majority leader Ray Ingraham and passed the committee across party lines.
Republicans favored giving retailers the option to charge or not, and a mandated charge to consumers would likely have meant the bill would fail. Realizing this, there was little debate on the matter on the floor of the RTM.
State law added a provision that local municipalities can pass plastic bag bans as long as they were not less stringent than the state.
For all statewide retailers, including in Branford, state law requires a 10-cent charge on all single use plastic bags distributed starting in August.
Local law will kick in 6 months from the implementation of the local ordinance. Essentially, that means the start of 2020. At that point, single use plastic bags will not be allowed by retailers in Branford.
The 6 month delay was meant to give local retailers an opportunity to use the current stock of plastic bags before transitioning to paper or single use bags.
The ban includes any event that takes place on town property. For example, vendors at the Branford Festival or other events will not be allowed to distribute single use plastic bags next summer.
Locally, a first offense will see a warning, a second will result in a $150 fine, a third a $150 fine and 8 hours of community service, and every subsequent violation another $150 fine.
The local effort was spearheaded by a Bring Your Own group led by Meg Kilgore. Over time, multiple local groups joined in as the push was on locally and statewide.
The local law allows retailers to charge for distribution of single use paper bags, something meant to strongly encourage residents to bring their own reusable bags for shopping. Retailers may charge up to 10 cents per bag, that amount can increase another 5 cents every 5 years, up to a maximum of 25 cents. Residents who are on food stamps or other state aid are exempt from the charge.
Many local retailers, like Carons Corner, have already begun the transition and do not offer plastic bags.