The State of Connecticut’s new ban on single-use plastic bags goes into effect August 1. It will place a tax of 10 cents on each single-use plastic bag. After two years the tax will disappear and the single-use plastic bags will be banned in the entire State of Connecticut.

The new state law, however, does not prevent towns or cities from enacting or enforcing their own ordinances that are at least as restrictive as the state’s ban, and can be stricter, as many towns have already done. Many Connecticut towns have also included a charge of 10 cents for each paper bag used.

At the present time, 19 Connecticut towns have banned single us plastic bags. Some of these town laws have already gone into effect, while others will soon take effect. The towns are: Weston, Stamford, Norwalk, New Canaan, New Britain, Middletown, Windham, Guilford, Newtown, Darien, Westport, Greenwich, Mansfield, Hamden, Stonington, Washington, Fairfield, Glastonbury and Darien.

Ten of these towns have instituted a fee of 10 cents for each paper bag used. The other nine towns, as well as the state law, have not done this — as they only address single use plastic bags and do not charge a fee for paper bags.

Why should we also care about paper bag uses?

Paper bags are not as environmentally friendly as people might assume. They generate air and water pollution; and the manufacturing and recycling of them requires a great deal of energy.

Why will grocery stores eventually have no choice but to charge for paper bag use, even if the town in which they operate does not mandate it?

Plastic bags are very cheap for the grocery stores to buy and give out freely. That is why they became ubiquitous in our shopping environment and why we now need to ban them in order to protect our environment and human health. Paper bags are more expensive to produce than plastic bags, according to the plastics Industry’s report. A standard single use plastic bag costs about one cent to produce while a paper bag costs 4 to 5 cents to manufacture. These costs are of course passed on to the grocery stores.

How will the grocery stores afford to let consumers move from cheap banned plastic bags over to more expensive paper bags without charging a fee? With or without a mandate to charge a fee for each paper bag used, our prediction is that the stores will start to do it on their own when they find out what the cost of giving them out freely begins to cost them.

The towns that banned single use plastic bags and also added a fee for each paper bag did that so that the consumers would start to bring into the stores their own reusable shopping bags. The towns that just banned plastic bags and did not put a fee on paper bags will find many customers will start to use paper bags instead of bringing their own shopping bags into the stores.

Grocery stores have many challenges ahead and what each grocery store decides to do to meet these challenges will be interesting to watch.

Meanwhile the public needs to get ready for all these changes and start using reusable shopping bags.

Nancy Alderman is President of Environment and Human Health, Inc.

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14 Comments

  1. Makes you wonder about the bags coming in from homes- are they clean? Paper bags can house cockroaches etc. How will restaurants and other places give you your takeout? I’m scared to bring those paper bags into my house. So we’ll kill more trees to make paper bags instead of recycling the plastic ones.

    1. As a bit of clarification, trees and paper-based products are renewable resources. Paper products (including paper bags) can be recycled numerous times. Trees can be planted and grown to a usable height within just 6-10 years now, meaning paper companies are gradually relying less on the world’s older trees for supply needs: https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.ifmaoregon.org/resource/resmgr/imported/Rapidly%20Renewable.pdf

      In contrast, single-use plastic bags, while sometimes reused once or twice after being taken home from a grocery store or elsewhere, largely end up in landfills and oceans. Only 1% end up in recycling facilities. The ones that don’t take 500+ years to break down: https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/sustainability/plastic_bag_facts.html

  2. I’m ready, I just bought 900 plastic bags for $18. I need plastic bags to protect my car from dripping meat and fish, and I use them to transport dead mice I catch in the fall. I refuse to buy them from the grocery because the tax on the bags goes to the state. Five reusuable bags will cost about $25.

  3. Big Y and other stores are also just going to stop providing them. This is good news for the environment and the tax payer. I hope this curbs the use of them. I know I’ll never allow a store to give me one. I pay enough to CT.

  4. Plastic bags are bad. Not disputing that–I bought reusable bags years ago. But the manufacturing of each plastic bag is relatively innocuous as it takes very little material and energy to make one. However, the replacements for plastic bags require more energy, materials, and water to manufacture. Something to consider for those concerned about climate change. Quartz has an article about that and how many times you would need to use a particular reusable bag to make up for the difference. You can read it here.

  5. Not clear cut as to whether paper bags are “better” than plastic; paper may degrade, but landfills are not designed for its contents to do so – it entombs the contents and paper bags take up far more space than plastic. Paper bags take a huge amount of water to make and have limited reusable value as they fall apart. Plastic bags are essentially made from by-products (pollution) of natural gas burnoff.

    This is one of those issues where the narrative is “plastic = bad” and it just isn’t that easy.

    http://www.allaboutbags.ca/papervplastic.html

      1. The source listed is:
        Content compiled by the Canadian Plastics Industry Association
        A trade organization devoted to promoting plastics.
        They have a vested interest in convincing folks that plastic is good and paper is bad. I remain skeptical.

  6. Overall, the real issue is the “general public’s” lack of understanding of the nuances of recycling. In order to have value in recycling, the recycled products (no matter what they’re made from) have to be clean. The public needs to be diligent about recycling, which as a whole, they are not very good at.

    Metals and glass can be recycled ad infinitum. Most plastics have limited recycling potential. Metals, glass and plastic are all derived from non-renewable resources, paper is not. Each has their own impact on this hunk of rock we all reside on. All petroleum-based products have a limit on future availability as we started running out of crude oil the day the first oil well came in. Personally I would rather reserve the remaining crude oil for use as an energy source and utilize other materials for the myriad of other items currently made from plastics.

    But then, perhaps the alleged consequences of climate change will wipe out the homo sapiens and recycling will become a non-issue.

  7. I just bought 10,000 bags on Amazon for about .02 cents each which should last me a long time. Going to rig up a dispenser I can put on a shopping cart too. So ridiculous.

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