Vermont grocery stores might start charging for plastic bags

| March 4, 2014

Vermont is known as the “Green Mountain State,” but a bill currently under consideration would turn Vermont into the “Very Green Mountain State.”

Vermont’s legislature is currently mulling over a ten-cent fee for disposable grocery bags.

The fee would be charged on a per-bag basis at checkout and would apply to paper, plastic, and any other single-use carrying bag. It would not, however, apply to produce bags, prescription drug bags, newspaper sleeves, or dry cleaning bags.

plastic bags

Vermont might start charging for plastic bags. From velkr0.

The goal of the bill is twofold: 1) Cut down on litter, and 2) Bolster the state’s waste management fund.

The bill comes from Vermont State Senator Robert Hartwell, who serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. While this bill is new for Vermont, it’s not quite revolutionary. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that eight states are currently considering similar statewide bills that would impose a fee or tax on disposable bags.

Beth Garbitelli of the Associated Press reports that over 100 U.S. municipalities already impose fees for bags — and some have enacted outright bans on disposable bags. If you traveled to a new city and weren’t aware of the ban, you could find yourself walking home with an armload of produce. (Not that I’m speaking from experience, of course. If I were, I’d warn you that pineapples are very awkward to carry.)

According to Garbitelli, in Vermont, “most of the [ten-cent grocery bag] fee would funnel into the state’s waste management fund with businesses retaining a processing fee of one cent for each dime collected.”

Hartwell, the bill’s sponsor, says that thinking of plastic bills as litter instead of simply as a convenience provided motivation for cutting down on their use. “[They’re] hanging out of a tree…stuck on a guardrail…on somebody’s car,” he said. “It has a different kind of impact.”

Motivating consumers to use multi-use bags — or pay the price — should cut down on the number of bags ending up in landfills, and, since plastic bag production requires petroleum, reducing production would lessen the strain on a non-renewable source.

While the bill might be an environmentally-friendly choice, it’s not without detractors. Some business owners in Vermont shared concerns, including the possibility that customers might balk at the fee, while business owners — who have no control over the bill — are left alone to defend that bill.

Other business owners were cautiously optimistic. One noted that “Vermont’s very forward thinking on recycling and what not…which is a good thing.”

Whether or not the legislature thinks this bill is a good thing remains to be seen. Garbitelli says Hartwell is hoping the bill will pass out of his committee very soon.

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Category: Plastic, Recycling programs

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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