What started out as a classroom project has become something of a mission for nine-year old students Colleen Moore and Julia Morledge.
The girls are seeking signatures on a petition they are circulating online and in person this Saturday at the Weston Farmers’ Market. The petition asks the Weston Board of Selectmen to ban plastic shopping bags in town.
Colleen came up with the idea for the petition as part of an assignment in her Project Challenge class at the Weston Intermediate School. “I wanted to do something that was good for the environment and this seemed like a good idea,” she said. Fellow student Julia Morledge agreed and joined in. “Westport has banned plastic shopping bags and so has San Francisco so I think Weston can do it, too,” Colleen said.
The girls would like to ban the disposable plastic shopping bags used in grocery stores for bagging groceries. Instead, they would like stores to use paper bags or have customers bring in their own reusable shopping bags.
The girls have several environmental reasons for wanting to ban the use of plastic bags. “Americans throw away one billion plastic bags every year but only 1% to 3% are ever recycled. Plastic bags kill thousands of marine animals yearly and are part of the worldwide global warming epidemic. They can clog waterways, cause floods, and take a thousand years to disintegrate,” Colleen said.
Julia added that making plastic bags uses millions of gallons of petroleum that could be used for transportation or heating. “For paper bags, trees can be replanted and more can be grown,” she said.
The girls said Stop & Shop in Westport sells reusable cloth bags, which can help make up for the cost of producing them.
Unlike Westport or San Francisco, however, Weston only has one grocery store that would be affected by the ban — Peter’s Weston Market.
Jim Magee, the owner of Peter’s Market, opposes a proposed ban on plastic shopping bags and said it would be a huge inconvenience for his customers. “Paper bags aren’t good for handling things like milk, meats, deli, frozen and cold items. We would go through so many more paper bags,” he said.
He said his store uses plastic bags made from recycled plastic, the same as the Village Market in Wilton, and there would be a huge cost increase if the store had to significantly increase its supply of paper bags. “It would cost me about $40,000 to $50,000 more a year to make the change to all paper. Larger companies and business can absorb that kind of cost but not a small store,” he said.
He was also concerned about sanitary issues that can arise by putting meats and poultry not wrapped in plastic bags directly into reusable shopping bags. According to the California Department of Public Health, reusable plastic shopping bags can accumulate bacteria from raw produce, meat, poultry and fish that can cross-contaminate other foods and non-food items. “That could be a concern,” he said.
The girls have collected 71 signatures so far on their petition, and said when they collect around 200 they will submit it to the selectmen for review and consideration. To read the petition online visit www.change.org/petitions/weston-ct-board-of-selectman-ban-plastic-shopping-bags-from-weston-ct.