Brief

Vermont legislators consider multiple proposals to regulate plastic bags

Dive Brief:

  • Legislators in Vermont's House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife are currently considering two bills that would regulate plastic bag usage in the state, as reported by the Burlington Free Press. Aside from the town of Brattleboro, no communities have recently pursued any type of bag regulation policy in the state.
  • One bill, H. 105, would ban "single-use carryout bags" made from paper and plastic — excluding bags for produce, prescription medication and dry cleaning — by July 2018. The sale of compostable and reusable bags for a small fee would be encouraged as replacements.
  • Another bill, H. 88, would place a 10-cent fee on "disposable carryout bags" made from paper and plastic - with similar exclusions - by July 2017. Stores would be allowed to keep 2 cents and the remainder would go to a waste management assistance fund controlled by the state.

Dive Insight:

For a state with such ambitious waste diversion goals, it is somewhat surprising that this discussion didn't come to the forefront sooner. Vermont is currently on a path to ban all food waste from landfills by 2020 and potentially reduce its solid waste disposal rate 25% by 2022. While they may represent a small portion of that material, cutting down on carryout bags could be viewed as another way to achieve that disposal rate reduction.

Both bills present opportunities for the usual debate over bag regulations if they do move forward. H. 105, which would encourage the proliferation of reusable bags, could raise questions about the true definition of "reusable" and the potential environmental effects of customers throwing away the bags. A push for compostable bags, or bags made from at least 40% postconsumer recycled content by 2022, could help counter those arguments. As for H. 88, the inevitable question will be whether retailers should get to keep any of the fee. The plastics industry put this question on the ballot in California last fall without success, though the same argument was recently used to delay a bag fee in New York City.

Elsewhere, Iowa recently became the eighth state to pass legislation prohibiting any restrictions on bag sales or usage and the discussion continues in municipalities around the country.

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Filed Under: Regulation Waste Diversion
Top image credit: Michael Kowalczyk