Lopez: At 10¢ Per Paper Bag Fee, I support RCB Ordinance

In the next few days you will hear a myriad of arguments in support of, and against, the
proposed Reusable Checkout Bag (RCB) Ordinance.

The ordinance will require retailers to provide recyclable paper bags at checkout counters, and ban the use of single use plastic bags.

There are some key exemptions that need to be recognized. The plastic bags currently used for holding fruit, vegetables, and the wrapping used for fresh foods and meats from the butcher and other fresh markets, will not be eliminated.

Residents who choose to utilize the recyclable bags provided by retailers, will have a 10¢ per bag fee added to their checkout total. This is lower than the original 23¢ fee that you will hear about in various articles and arguments this week. Those residents who bring their own reusable bags to retailers, will not be subject to the fee. Also, residents who qualify for the SNAP and WIC programs, and 501(c)(3) nonprofits will be exempted from this fee.

This type of ordinance is not new. Currently 12 cities across the country have enacted plastic bag bans and/or fees. Those cities and counties include Los Angeles, New York City, Seattle, Austin, Texas, and Boulder, Colorado. That by no means suggests that these cities and counties have not continued to improve their current legislation. However, in an attempt to protect our environment, they have taken the first step.

One of the most important things to me as a person, and as part of our town legislature, is to be an indomitable bulwark for the less fortunate. This is why I advocated for, and supported the effort to lower the originally proposed 23¢ fee, to 10¢.

Though residents who bring their own reusable bags to retail shops will not be charged the fee, many of our residents join me in recognizing that there are some families that will not be able to afford to purchase reusable bags. They will be charged the fee simply because they cannot afford a reusable bag.

To that end, ordinary citizens are forming groups and preparing to provide free reusable bags to thousands of residents who need them. I am currently working with willing residents who plan to provide 1,000 high quality reusable bags for residents who may not be able to afford them. I will be reaching out to our nonprofits, social services, and other community based help groups to identify residents who are in need, and who will not be exempted from the ordinance.

While Greenwich has a great track record as being one of the most responsible Towns in the state in terms of recycling, many don’t know that when we recycle a plastic bag in town, it is actually incinerated. Burning plastic bags, especially on a scale large enough to handle plastic bag refuse from a town with over 60,000 residents creates an incredible amount of toxins that are then released into our air.

I want to be clear. This is not a scare tactic. It is a fact. We must be careful that we present our residents with the facts, and to allow you to make your own informed decision. This ordinance does not get rid of every type of plastic bag in town. However, it more than significantly reduces the amount of toxins that we will put into our air through the incineration of plastic bags that we thought were recycled for other uses.

As the father of 3 children, I was shocked and angry to learn that I have been unwittingly contributing to the polluting of the air that they breathe. As a member of the RTM, and the voting delegate from District 1 on the Legislative & Rules committee, I felt compelled to vote yes to move the ordinance out of committee and to a vote by the full RTM on next Monday. I intend to vote yes if the ordinance comes to a vote, and I wanted you to know why.

If you believe in what this ordinance is trying to do, then I ask you to contact the members of the RTM in your district, and urge them to vote yes.

You can find your district RTM members here http://rtm.greenwich.org/members.

Anthony Lopez
District 1 RTM