magnusdeepbelow via shutterstock
A single-use plastic bag floating in the sea (magnusdeepbelow via shutterstock)

Fueled by environmentalists and frustrated by state inaction, a growing number of Connecticut communities are taking or considering action on their own to ban single-use plastic bags at grocery stores to help protect the environment.

Currently only Westport and Greenwich have banned single-use plastic bags but Stamford will soon follow with a ban taking effect in April.

Meanwhile, various discussions about bans have been held in recent weeks at meetings in New Haven, Hamden, Branford, Guilford, and North Branford, among others.

Many of those discussions have been initiated by environmental groups who say they are tired of waiting for the state to take action on the issue.

In New Haven, which actually had a plastic bag ban for a short while in the 1990s, a proposed ordinance is under review.

In Guilford and Branford, residents have started Bring Your Own (BYO) groups to advocate for change locally. The organization’s stated goal is “to encourage the use of reusable checkout bags for the benefit of our town’s environment and citizens.”

The group recently appeared before Guilford’s Board of Selectmen to suggest that the town advance the ban-the-plastic-bag movement, submitting a petition with more than 500 signatures in support of a ban.

BYO adds: “Plastic bags pose a threat to the Long Island Sound, wildlife, natural areas, and health of the Guilford community. It is our goal to replace single-use plastic checkout bags with reusable bags in order to inspire change in the daily habits of Guilford residents and decrease our town’s plastic waste.”

Last month, members of BYO Branford appeared before the Representative Town Meeting to urge local action. They told the RTM they have the support of hundreds of residents and close to two dozen merchants.

A proposed ordinance is expected to be discussed at the Branford RTM’s Rules and Ordinance Committee.

In addition, at North Branford’s most recent Solid Waste Committee meeting the matter came up — but the committee took no action. Instead, committee members said they would wait to see what neighboring towns do and then, perhaps, follow suit.

North Branford, Branford, and Guilford all happen to be towns in the 12th Senate District — which is represented by newly-elected Christine Cohen. Cohen, coincidentally, has been named Senate chair of the General Assembly’s Environment Committee. She could not be reached for comment for this story.

But environmentalists in the individual towns aren’t the only ones hoping the state might soon get on board.

The Connecticut Food Association, for one, is hoping the state will act.

“With 169 towns and cities in Connecticut, a one-by-one plan doesn’t make sense,” Wayne Pesce, president of the association, said. “This scenario is not broad enough, makes it difficult for retailers to comply, and is confusing for consumers.”

“Over the last year or so we have been working with legislators, recyclers and environmental groups to solve this problem via statewide legislation,” Pesce added. “The purpose of this law would be to significantly reduce the amount of single-use bags distributed at retail and to encourage consumers in Connecticut to use their own reusable bags for shopping.”

North America’s largest grocery chain, Kroger, recently announced that it will be discontinuing single-use plastic bags in its stores by 2025 as part of its ongoing sustainability program, called “Zero Hunger, Zero Waste.”  According to a company press release, an estimated 100 billion single-use plastic bags are thrown away in the U.S every year and less than 5 percent of plastic bags are recycled.

National chains Costco and Aldi, which both have stores in Connecticut, do not provide free single-use plastic bags.