Hamden bans businesses from providing plastic bags and straws

By Jordan Wolff

One week into the ban on plastic straws and bags in Hamden, some businesses aren’t complying with the ordinance.

McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts gave customers plastic straws at the drive through window on Friday, Sept. 20, and Common Grounds left plastic straws near the milk station, in violation of a new ordinance. Stores must keep straws behind the counter and may give to customers only when they request them.

McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts gave customers plastic straws at the drive through window on Friday, Sept. 20, and Common Grounds left plastic straws near the milk station, in violation of a new ordinance. Stores must keep straws behind the counter and may give to customers only when they request them.

Under the rules, which went into effect on Sept. 12, Hamden businesses may not offer or sell plastic checkout bags to customers and should only offer single-use drinking straws upon request by a customer.

A survey of more than a dozen restaurants, coffee shops and retail stores showed that most have switched to paper and reusable bags, but some aren’t following the rules on straws.

For example, reporters observed on Sept. 20 that the McDonald’s near Hamden Plaza and Dunkin Donuts on Whitney Avenue are still giving straws with iced coffees in the drive throughs. Common Grounds on Dixwell Avenue and multiple Dunkin Donuts are keeping straws by the milk and napkin station, but the ordinance states that businesses are supposed to keep straws behind the counters.

And some stores, including Krauszer’s, are still charging 10 cents for plastic bags, which is also in violation of the ordinance..

Leslie Balch, director of health at the Quinnipiack Valley Health District, confirmed that these actions do not comply with the new rules. Businesses not in compliance will be notified by a Hamden Litter Enforcement Officer on potential citations and fines..

However, Balch noted that most retailers and restaurants have cooperated so far.

“From what we’ve been able to observe within a week, we’ve seen a lot of really good compliance,” Balch said. “We have the advantage of the state law, and the idea which we like to promote of bring your own bag and decrease single-use items. So, we’ve seen a great acceptance of it, without a lot of complaints.”

Quinnipiac businesses such as the bookstore and Starbucks also have to comply. A reporter noted that the bookstore is promoting paper and reusable bags and that Starbucks employees will only give plastic straws if asked by the customer.

Yet some Hamden business owners say they feel the ordinance won’t have any resounding changes, and worry that it has upset many customers.

“The ridiculous ban, it doesn’t make sense to us,” Karen Brown from Glenwood Drive-in said. “It was rushed.”

One of the biggest complaints is  that customers don’t want to purchase reusable bags, or pay for single-use bags if they choose to use those.

"Single-use bans are not going to have any effect other than annoying people who have to now buy bags,” said Kim Taldridge, co-owner of KayCee Farms.

Hamden isn’t the only town that has enacted the ban in 2019. With a 2021 state-wide ban looming, 15 towns have decided to act right away.

Balch knew it was only a matter of time before Connecticut officials addressed the issue of plastic waste.

“It is my belief that the state has entertained the possibility and looked at the idea for the past couple of years,” Balch said. “Many of the towns in Connecticut decided rather than wait to see what happens, they would embark on the research and everything involved with doing it on their own. That’s what Hamden did.”

The Hamden ordinance was passed in February due to the efforts of Hamden Councilman Brad Macdowall, who has a strong focus on conserving the environment.

Many business owners are in favor of the ordinance.

“We've always been using only paper, it just makes more sense,” Venice Bakery cashier Katie said.

Venice Bakery isn’t alone.

“We only use paper bags, brown and white,” Linda DiSorbo of DiSorbo’s Italian Bakery said.

 Hamden Scuba employee Kevin O’Sullivan believes that both paper and plastic bags will always present a challenge

“We need to find a balance. The reason we went to plastic in the first place is because we were chopping down too many trees to make paper bags. Single-use is the problem, and for most people that is plastic.” 

Despite not being allowed to purchase plastic bags, the QVHD clarified that residents can bring plastic bags into stores.

Map by Kristen Altmeyer

Map by Kristen Altmeyer

Moving forward, Balch wants residents to understand the environmental purpose of using plastic bags and straws.

“What we want to do, is not for the enforcement but for the value of seeing a change in our habits,” Balch said. “As soon as the state law came in, we’ve already seen a change and I think we’re going to be fairly successful.”


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