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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Environmental Group To Push For Plastic Bag Ban Throughout New England

Plastic bags hang on a wall at Sam's Outdoor Outfitters in Brattleboro in 2017. Since then, the town has banned single-use plastic bags.
Howard Weiss-Tisman
VPR File
Plastic bags pictured at Sam's Outdoor Outfitters in Brattleboro, Vt., last year. Brattleboro's ban on single-use plastic bags went into effect July 1, and the Conservation Law Foundation hopes to get all six New England states to ban the bags as well.

The city of Boston’s ban on plastic grocery bags went into effect Friday, and a regional environmental group says it will push for legislation to impose a similar ban in all six New England states.

The Conservation Law Foundation is working to eliminate plastic pollution, and the Boston-based environmental group says a good place to start is to outlaw the bags you get at the grocery store checkout.

Kirstie Pecci, director of the Zero Waste Project at CLF, says the thin, single-use bags are bad for the environment in a number of ways: They’re made from petroleum, they’re rarely recycled, and they can really foul up recycling operations if they get mixed in with products that are recyclable.

“Plastic bags are pervasive in the environment. They litter our communities, they blow around," she said. "They fall apart eventually and those little bits of plastic, those microplastics, are then in our soil, in our freshwater, in our oceans."

Pecci said eliminating single-use bags can also been done with minimal impact on consumers. People can bring reusable bags to the grocery store, or they can pay a small amount — 5 or 10 cents — for a paper bag to cover the increased cost.

“That system really incentivizes a reduction in use of plastic bags and avoids replacing the plastic bags with bags made of paper or other materials. It really does incentivize reusable bags being brought to the store,” she said.

A bill to ban the single-use bags in Vermont was introduced in the 2017 session, but did not make it out of committee.

Erin Sigrist, the president of the Vermont Retail & Grocers Association, said her organization realizes that the plastic prohibitions are gaining momentum around the region. She said legislation in Vermont should take into account the impact to store owners, as well as to customers who out of habit or circumstance cannot readily make the switch to reusable bags.

"We are very aware that bans have been discussed in various locations throughout the state," Sigrist said. "As always we are happy to have the conversation and figure out the best path forward, if necessary."

ban on single-use plastic bags went into effect earlier this year in Brattleboro, Vermont. Pecci expects CLF and other groups to push for the bag-banning legislation in all six New England states this winter.

John worked for VPR in 2001-2021 as reporter and News Director. Previously, John was a staff writer for the Sunday Times Argus and the Sunday Rutland Herald, responsible for breaking stories and in-depth features on local issues. He has also served as Communications Director for the Vermont Health Care Authority and Bureau Chief for UPI in Montpelier.
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