HARTFORD, CT — Perhaps pushed into it by towns that have moved on the issue far quicker, the Environment Committee Monday voted 25-4 in favor of a bill that would ban the sale of single-use plastic bags starting in 2020.
The bill also said that any paper bags provided by stores to customers who don’t bring their own shopping bags must be 100 percent recyclable.
The bill now goes to the Senate.
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Stores that do no comply, according to the bill’s language, will be issued a warning on the first violation; after that a store would be fined $250 for a second and any subsequent violation.
It seems every day a new Connecticut town or city is passing a plastic bag ban. By advocates’ counts, more than 20 communities have passed bans — about half of which have been in the past few months as the momentum to ban the plastic bags is building around the state.
The bill takes note of that fact, stating that any town or city that has enacted a ban on its own should not have its law superseded by whatever final action the state winds up taking.
“This bill would not impede in anyway the plastic bans that any towns have already moved forward on this issue,” Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, co-chair of the committee said.
The Connecticut Food Association had submitted testimony during a public hearing on the bill, asking the state to act, stating it was difficult for the association to deal with it on a town-by-town basis.
“With 169 towns and cities in Connecticut, a one-by-one plan doesn’t make sense,” Wayne Pesce, president of the association, said. “This scenario is not broad enough, makes it difficult for retailers to comply, and is confusing to consumers.”
He said the statewide ban would reduce the amount of single-use bags distributed at retail and encourage consumers in Connecticut to use their own reusable bags for shopping.”
Pesce said grocers are trying to lead by example.
Recently Supermarket chain Big Y, which has 30 stores in Connecticut, announced that it will phase-out single-use plastic bags in its stores by next year. National chains Costco and Aldi, which both have stores in Connecticut, already do not provide free single-use plastic bags.
Gov. Ned Lamont has proposed a 10-cent tax on plastic bags, instead of calling for a ban. It’s unclear what that would mean the communities that have already banned them.
Meanwhile, the committee Monday passed a second bill pushed by environmentalists — one requiring the elimination of single-use styrofoam containers for a food establishment.
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The goal of that bill is reduce litter in parks, waterways, and urban centers and also to create cost-savings in the recycling process.
The bill received strong support during the public hearing from Connecticut Program Director For Citizens Campaign For the Environment (CCE) Louis Burch.
“In addition to increasing public exposure to Styrene, expanded polystyrene is a significant contributor to the plastic pollution crisis choking our marine environment,” Burch said. EPS packaging never bully breaks down in our water, instead, it breaks into tiny pieces which persist for hundreds of years.”
He added: “Polystyrene waste also presents a problem for municipal recyclers. EPS foam cannot be easily recycled, it at all.”
That bill will move to the House.