A potential law banning single use plastics bags is moving forward in Branford, even as the state looks at creating its own law.
The local ordinance passed the Rules and Ordinances Committee with a 5-1 vote last month. There was strong bipartisan support for the measure, but there was a difference of opinion on whether retail stores were required to charge a fee for paper bags or simply had the option to do so.
Republican majority leader Ray Ingraham made a motion to keep it as an option, and not a requirement, and that wording is now included in the proposed ordinance.
Currently, the law is undergoing legal review by the town attorney, and will likely see the floor of the full Representative Town Meeting in June.
However, the state is also working on a plastic bag law. With the state session ending in 4 weeks, a state law may preempt any local ordinance.
Under the local law, retail businesses, any town event or event held on town property, like the annual Festival, would be barred from using plastic bags. Exceptions to this would include packaging of meats and fish, dry cleaning, and small bags for small hardware items.
The law allows, but does not requires, stores to charge a fee of 10 cents per paper bag, and that amount can increase by 5 cents annually, up to a maximum of 25 cents. However senior customers or customers using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or ‘food stamps,’ would be exempt from the fee.
An initial violation of the ordinance would result in a warning, a second occurrence would result in a $150 fine. The rule would be enforced by the police department, and the Board of Selectmen would be able to designate an enforcement officer.
Overall, the goal is to change the behavior of retail customers, encouraging them to avoid both plastic and paper bags and instead keep and use reusable bags for shopping needs.