At New Haven’s regular monthly City Plan Commission meeting, commissioners voted four to one in favor of recommending the adoption of the proposed plastic bag ban amendment to the New Haven Code of Ordinances. Commissioner Leslie Radcliffe abstained from the vote. The proposed amendment, drafted and backed by the city’s Environmental Advisory Council, would prohibit all retailers from selling or distributing plastic checkout bags to its customers. It now goes to the Board of Alders for more public hearings and a final vote.

City Legislative Assistant for Policy Analysis Esther Armmand joined EAC Chair Laura Cahn and EAC members Kathleen Fay and Kevin McCarthy to pitch the proposed amendment to the commissioners. They stressed that written into the proposed law is a deliberate one-year delay between adoption and enforcement, giving the city time to educate local businesses and residents about the coming prohibition and the environmental benefits of bringing reusable bags to the grocery store and pharmacy.

“We’re not trying to penalize anyone,” Cahn said, noting that this proposed amendment does not impose financial penalties on consumers for using plastic checkout bags. Instead, it bans businesses from distributing those bags altogether. “This is an initiative to reduce the use of things we really don’t need.”

“It’s really about promoting reusable bags,” Armmand added. “The idea is to look at how we reduce waste overall.”

The proposed ordinance states that the ban shall become effective six months after adoption in order to give businesses time to exhaust their existing inventories of plastic checkout bags, defined as “a bag of any thickness or size that is made of plastic derived from fossil fuels or from a genetically modified organism bio-based source (such as corn or other plant sources), which is provided at checkout to transport items purchased from or provided by a Business Establishment.”

Then, one year after adoption, an enforcement officer appointed by the New Haven Solid Waste Recycling Authority shall be empowered to start issuing warnings, and then fines, to businesses that keep bagging their customers’ goods in plastic.

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