Plas­tic bag ban con­cerns en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists

The News-Times - - NEWS - By Jack Kramer

HARTFORD — 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, DS­trat­ford, 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.

Matthew Brown / Hearst Connecticu­t Me­dia

Nick D'Alessan, of Stam­ford, bags his own gro­ceries us­ing re­cy­clable bags af­ter shop­ping at Sho­pRite in April in Stam­ford.

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