Camillo: Compromise is In Order on Plastic Bag Initiative

Letter to the editor submitted by State Rep Fred Camillo

As someone who has  been involved in recycling on the professional, civic, and legislative levels, the recent proposal to ban plastic bags caught my attention.

I do salute the effort to focus on reducing plastics ( in this case, plastic bags ), and welcome the opportunity this affords us to get friends and neighbors to think about what is truly needed and what we can do without.

However, there is one component to this effort that I would like to address and offer an alternative concept with the hope it can help any new ordinance avoid any unintended consequences.

When I first became aware of this endeavor,  the proposal was not only to ban all plastic bags, but it included charging people 10 cents per paper bag, if they choose to use them. I disagreed with that fee because many of us already recycle these bags and that would just be penalizing those already  doing the right thing. So, when I saw that the fee was up to 25 cents, my concern that this initiative was punitive grew stronger.

If the goal is to reduce the amount of plastic bags, we should work with our local businesses and allow them to offer plastic bags upon request, and then put a limit on their use.

For example, since I personally reuse these plastic bags before I properly discard them, there could be a plastic bag limit per visit.

Hence, I would not be walking out with 20 or 30 bags, and I would continue to be able to reuse them as needed. This would dramatically reduce the amount of plastic bags in circulation, would satisfy consumer need, not add costs to our residents’ grocery bills, and put a healthy spotlight on the issue by promoting other forms of baggage and reuse.

Adding fees like this will carry the very real possibility that our town residents may go to neighboring towns where no such bag fees exist. Fees ( and taxes ), whether they are revenue grabs or not,  certainly don’t help local economies.

As I speak with neighbors and constituents, this is something that I consistently hear.  Many businesses and residents are already struggling and this fee will only hurt our lower and middle income residents. So, let’s continue to work on Environmental initiatives that are forward thinking and productive. A compromise on this issue will, I believe, accomplish those goals.

Greenwich has long been a leader in our state in most of the important categories, including recycling. While we are still one of the best municipalities when it comes to conservation, we still have much that we can do to be even better and be the leader that Connecticut has come to expect of us. A compromise on this well intentioned idea can do exactly that.