Lawmakers Consider Statewide Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags

Recyclable paper bags would still be an option, but proponents are hoping shoppers choose reusable totes instead.

This week, Connecticut lawmakers are expected to vote on whether to ban single-use plastic bags statewide.

Two states, New York and California, already ban plastic bags. Connecticut could be next.

Wednesday, backers of a bill to ban single use plastic bags made their case at the Capitol.

Recyclable paper would still be an option, but proponents are hoping shoppers choose reusable totes instead.

“Bringing your own bag, that’s the name of the game,” said Louis Rosado Burch of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Rosado Burch spoke at a press conference Wednesday, flanked by several Democratic lawmakers and members of the legislature’s Environment Committee. Rosado Burch said he’s been working for 10 years to get single-use bags banned in Connecticut.

“We have a plastic pollution crises. It’s choking our oceans,” he explained.

While some are already toting reusable bags to the checkout aisle, others are bagging on the idea of a ban.

“I don’t think it’s right,” said Sue Wogelius of South Windsor.

“I’m not really sure how involved the government has to get to solve this problem,” said House Republican David Rutigliano of Trumbull.

The bill, which will be introduced in the state Senate this week and the House next week, calls for an across-the-board ban on plastic bags beginning in July 2021.

“I think plastic is a nuisance and I think we need to help our environment and our whole planet,” said Diana Kankel while shopping at the Geissler’s Super Market in South Windsor.

Fourteen Connecticut communities have already banned single-use bags blamed for endangering the environment and clogging up recycling centers, according to Patricia Taylor, the director of the Plastics Project at Environmnetal and Human Health, Inc. If the statewide ban passes, those cities and towns will still be allowed to follow their local ordinances as long as they are as strict as the state’s.

“I just think it would make it better, better across the board, everybody doing the same thing,” said Geissler’s store manager Jeff Wyse.

“That’s even what the retailers have told us. They don’t want to abide by individual regulations in 169 towns. We need one rule across the state of Connecticut,” said Sen. Will Haskell a Democrat from Westport, which already bans plastic bags.

Stores that don’t follow the law would first get a warning, and then would be fined $250 starting with the second offense. Half of that money would go to the municipality and the other half to a state agency.

“This is a really big opportunity to move our state forward when it comes to recognizing climate change,” said backer Julie Kushner, a state senator from Bethel.

Only paper bags made from recyclable materials with the phrase "Please Reuse and Recycle This Bag" would be permitted, according to the legislation.

“Brown bags are fine but I like the plastic ones better because of the leakage you get from things and it makes brown bags wet and they fall apart too,” said Wogelius.

People who like to reuse these bags say they’ll be forced to go buy plastic bags, replacing plastic with plastic.

“I reuse a lot of them for different items, to put into waste baskets or to pack up,” said Maureen Schaffner of South Windsor.

“I use them for the doggy, picking up stuff,” added Wogelius.

Republican House member and restaurant owner David Rutigliano of Trumbull says his business switched over to paper a year ago, but at a significant cost.

“A plastic bag may cost two cents and a paper bag costs 28 cents,” said Rutigliano. “I know that it sounds great that the businesses pay the tax but ultimately it’s the end use the customer that pays for all these mandates that we’re putting forth.”

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