Paper or plastic? Not so fast…

By SHERIDAN ROY

STAFF WRITER

This week retailers in Connecticut will stop offering free single-use plastic checkout bags to shoppers. Beginning on Thursday, Aug. 1, these bags will cost customers 10 cents apiece. Many retailers are getting rid of single-use bags entirely. By July 1, 2021, single-use bags at checkout will be a thing of the past in Connecticut.

The phase-out—and ultimately the elimination of single-use bags—was included in Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget, signed at the end of June of this year.

Public act No. 19-117 defines a single-use checkout bag as “a plastic bag with a thickness of less than four mils that is provided by a store to a customer at the point of sale.” It does not include bags provided to contain meat, seafood, loose produce or other unwrapped food items. It does not include newspaper bags, paper bags or laundry or dry cleaning bags, either.

The number of bags purchased will appear on a customer’s receipt. Sales tax is not imposed on the fee. Each store will report all fees collected to the Commissioner of Revenue Services with its return and remit payment at the same time.

By July 1, 2021, both plastic and paper bags will be eliminated from Connecticut stores. Many stores are targeting plastic bags for starters and are still offering paper bags…for now.

Paper may still be an option at some stores, but in the meantime retailers have been reminding shoppers of the Aug. 1 change with signs around their stores. They are also encouraging shoppers to purchase reusable tote bags at checkout, or bring their own.

In Southington, reusable bags typically range from 50 cents up to $9 for more durable bags that can be used in freezers.

Starting Aug. 1, the Southington Stop & Shop at 505 N. Main St. will offer paper bags at no cost to customers until Sept. 3. At that time, they will begin charging 10 cents for paper bags. Reusable bags start at two for $1 and are available at checkout. Stop & Shop offers a variety of styles and sizes of reusable bags with the most expensive one being $7.99.

The Southington Price Chopper at 410 Queen St. has been offering a small incentive for shoppers who use reusable bags—3 cents off their total purchase for each bag—but this incentive will no longer be available after Aug. 1. Price Chopper offers a basic re-usable tote bag for 99 cents and a thermal, heavy-duty bag for $8.99.

ShopRite at 750 Queen St. is offering reusable bags for $1. They offer thermal bags for $2.99. Paper bags will be offered for 10 cents starting Aug. 1.

Aldi at 811 Queen St. has never offered free plastic bags. They, like the other stores, offer reusable bags. On a rack by the cash registers, the basic bag is $1.99, and a sturdier thermal bag is $6.99.

At BJ’s, the wholesale store at 75 Spring St., they too have never offered free plastic bags. Customers can either bring their own bags, or grab empty cardboard boxes that the store provides on the way out.

Several municipalities in Connecticut already have a plastic bag ban in place. For those communities, as long as their ordinances are “as restrictive or more restrictive” than the definitions outlined in the governor’s budget, their ordinances will remain in place. Those municipalities can still collect their designated fee; however, it will be in addition to the 10 cent statewide fee.

Back in March of this year, the conversation came before the Connecticut Committee on Environment. The committee presented a favorable report on senate bill No. 1003, “an act concerning the use of single-use plastic and paper bags” and referred it back to the senate.

“Plastics, including single-use plastic bags, have been shown to cause detrimental harm to local environments, and cause serious injury or death to wildlife. Marine wildlife are especially impacted by single-use plastic bags,” states the environmental committee’s report. “In addition to environmental concerns, plastic bags that enter the recycling stream will cause sorting machines to jam at recycling centers. This leads to a halt in operations approximately every three to four hours and requires a worker to physically enter into the machine and untangle and remove plastic film by hand.”

According to executive director of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, Lori Brown, Connecticut residents use approximately 400 million plastic bags annually, and only five percent are properly recycled nationwide.

“Although the average bag is used for approximately 12 minutes, the damage caused to the environment can last over a thousand years,” she stated in the environmental committee’s report.

The details in the governor’s budget differ slightly from what the environmental committee approved—the bill sought to require any paper single-use carryout bag to be 100 percent recyclable, have at least 40 percent post-consumer recycled content, and conspicuously display “Please Reuse and Recycle This Bag” on it. In public comments, several constituents urged lawmakers to include paper bags in the 10-cent fee.

Senate bill No. 1003 was added the senate’s calendar but has not been discussed yet.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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