Stonington residents say new trash bags are garbage

This composite shows an earlier style of Town of Stonington trash bag, left, and a newer bag, right, both seen Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. Stonington residents have been complaining about the quality of the newer bags, as well as the color. (David Collins and Joe Wojtas/The Day)
This composite shows an earlier style of Town of Stonington trash bag, left, and a newer bag, right, both seen Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. Stonington residents have been complaining about the quality of the newer bags, as well as the color. (David Collins and Joe Wojtas/The Day)

Stonington — One resident described the new color as “puke gold,” while others are complaining the town’s yellow trash bags now break easily, are smaller than normal, don’t fit their garbage cans and have defective drawstrings.

The unsightly bags have prompted numerous comments on the Stonington Community Forum Facebook page such as these:

“They are sooooo cheap! Rips around the drawstring every time,” Tina Marie wrote.

“They are just nasty,” Chris Dewick added.

“They are thinner, loops break and just plain junk,” Dara Karas wrote.

The town’s solid waste director, John Phetteplace, who instituted and has overseen the successful bag program for the past 25 years, acknowledged this week that there have been problems with the manufacturer of the bags, issues that have been frustrating at times to resolve.

The town’s five-year contract with Waste Zero of Raleigh, N.C., to provide the 15- and 34-gallon bags expires at the end of this month and Phetteplace said the town will open bids for a new contract next week. He said other companies have expressed interest in producing the bags for the town. The town is allowed to reject the lowest bid if it feels a firm is not qualified or does not meet the requirements of the bid package.

While there has been a change in the color of the bags due to a shortage of yellow dye, Phetteplace said their strength and size remain the same, although the way the drawstrings are sealed could make it appear to some that the bags are smaller.

Phetteplace said that bags that are made at the beginning of the production cycle and may not be up to standards were overlooked during the quality control process and delivered to the town. Those appear to be the bags that are breaking. He said there has not been any trouble with entire lots of bags.

Phetteplace said his office has been dealing with the problem for a few months now and it may be the result of the company taking on new customers and growing too quickly. He said the town has a new supply of bags.

He said the company has assured the town the production problem has been fixed, “but, frankly, it took them too long.”

As for the color, Phetteplace said, the company had informed him it had run out of the proper dye and asked to use another color. Phetteplace said that if the town had declined, there would have been a bag shortage.

While people have been posting complaints on Facebook, Phetteplace said his office has received only three calls regarding the issue.

The bag program, which requires residents to buy the yellow bags to dispose of their trash, was instituted in 1992 and has become a model not just for communities in Connecticut but across the country. It has decreased trash production by 50 percent as people recycle more, produces revenue and has made the system of paying for trash fairer as residents pay only for the trash they produce. Before the bag program, the costs of trash disposal were included in the town budget, which meant taxpayers paid based on the value of their property regardless of how much trash they produced.

The program has run smoothly with the exception of a problem several years ago in which the town received bags with no sides. At that time, Phetteplace said, Waste Zero came to town and replaced all the bags.

 j.wojtas@theday.com

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