HARTFORD, CT — Environmentalists are not happy with the latest plastic bag tax and ban included in the budget proposal, because it exempts so-called compostable bags and prohibits towns from enacting or enforcing previously enacted bans.
Lori Brown, executive director of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CLTCV), urged people Monday to contact the governor’s office to raise objections.
Rep. Joe Gresko, D-Stratford, also voiced his displeasure about the change to House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz.
“We have to fix this,” Gresko said.
Also unhappy is Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, co-chair of the Environment Committee.
“I thought we had appropriately collaborated with legislators, environmentalists, municipalities and retailers to come up with agreed upon language and this was not it,” Cohen said.
She said she’s unhappy “with the exemption of compostables, unhappy with municipalities being preempted by state law, even with stricter bans, and unhappy with the language disallowing retailers/municipalities from charging for paper.”
Brown believes their best shot at changing it is by contacting the governor’s office.
“Tell him not to exempt compostable bags from the plastic bag ban and not to preempt towns from passing their own, stronger bans. The clock is ticking and we have to act now,” Brown said in an email.
The budget imposes a 10-cent tax on single-use plastic bags provided at the point of sale until June 30, 2021, and bans them beginning July 1, 2021.
The tax and ban applies to “single-use checkout bags,” which are plastic bags with a thickness of less than four mils that are provided to a customer at the point of sale.
The bill also prohibits stores from charging a fee for single-use paper bags provided to customers at the point of sale, overriding any special act, municipal charter, or ordinance.
That part of the bill “has kind of blindsided” those who favor the plastic bag ban, Amanda Schoen, deputy director of CLTCV, said Monday. Across the state, Hamden, Mansfield, Middletown, New Canaan, New Britain, Norwalk, Stamford, Weston, Greenwich, and Westport have passed bans on single-use plastic bag.
Schoen said by her count about 30 towns across the state are in the process of either finalizing or getting close to finalizing their own bans on plastic bags — and/or charging fees for their use.
Asked where she thought the initiative came from to ban towns from taking stronger action than the state, Schoen said: “That’s a good question” but added that there were plenty of lobbyists, primarily those who were pushing for the combustible bag exemption, that could be behind the sudden language change.
The language in the Democrats’ budget contrasts with the bill the Environment Committee approved in April, which would prohibit stores from providing and/or selling plastic single-use carryout bags at the point of sale. It would also require any paper single-use carryout bag to be 100% recyclable and have at least 40% post-consumer recycled content. Paper bags will also be required to conspicuously display, “please reuse and recycle this bag,” on the bag.
The bill passed the Environment Committee by a bipartisan 25-4 vote, but has been on the Senate calendar since April 11.