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Source: The Daily Darien

Darien Stores Oppose Mandatory Plastic Bag Ban

BY CASEY DONAHUE

Posted: August 23, 2011
Originally Published: August 23, 2011

DARIEN, Conn. – Although Greg Palmer encourages customers at Palmer's Market to use reusable bags and cut down on plastic bags, he believes a town ordinance banning plastic bags would hurt grocery stores.

Town ordinances "shouldn't put an undue burden on businesses, or in this case, one type of business," Palmer told the Board of Selectmen on Monday night as he and other representatives of the supermarket industry explained the challenges of enforcing a townwide ban on plastic bags.

Palmer cited many challenges in the industry, including increased competition and taxes, the rising costs of health insurance and worker's compensation, and unemployment taxes. Palmer's and other stores are already offering refunds for reusing bags and selling reusable bags for below cost.

Stan Sorkin, president of the Connecticut Food Association, said supermarkets make only about a penny and a half for every dollar in retail sales. Removing the option of plastic bags would increase costs and possibly drive away business.

"The consumer has a choice of where to shop. If they decide it costs more or is more inconvenient to shop at a Darien store, they could go somewhere else," Sorkin said. He said shoppers use reusable bags without legislation forcing them to and said a ban could increase a local grocer's expenses by $25,000 to $30,000 per year.

"Any pressure on a supermarket right now will result in cutbacks in service or increased prices," he said.

Sunil Saksena, whose wife Deepika is one of the leaders of Choose to Reuse in Darien, said Darien is a good home for supermarkets, citing the opening of Whole Foods in 2010 during the height of the recession. He said that in Westport, where plastic bags have been banned, "there is such an acceptance of reusable bags in the community that in fact total bag costs have actually declined."

Members of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the Sierra Club also slammed the environmental damage caused by plastic bags. The Board of Selectmen will discuss the ordinance again at its Sept. 6 meeting.