Local businesses adjust to plastic bag law

A sign outside of Plainville’s Big Y supermarket informs customers about the new plastic bag policy in the store to comply with changes in state law.

By SHERIDAN ROY

STAFF WRITER

Last week retailers in Connecticut stopped offering free single-use plastic checkout bags to shoppers. Starting Aug. 1, these bags now 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 Plainville, reusable bags typically range from 50 cents up to $9 for more durable bags that can be used in freezers.

Plainville’s two main grocery stores, Gnazzo’s Food Center and Big Y Supermarket, have both opted to get rid of plastic entirely. Shoppers will no longer have that option.

At Gnazzo’s Food Center, there are a few options in lieu of plastic. Customers can purchase a reusable tote bag for 50 cents, or opt for paper bags. There are three sizes of paper bags—the small and medium bags are free, but the large ones cost 10 cents each.

Big Y Supermarket offers a variety of reusable tote bags for varying prices. Standard reusable tote bags are $1.49 a piece, or buy-one-get-one (two bags) for $1 for Big Y members. They also offer insulated bags for $2.99 (two for $5 for members), and a large, thermal, collapsible box/bag for $7.99. Big Y is also offering paper bags with handles for 10 cents apiece.

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 Connect-icut League of Conserv-ation Voters, Lori Brown, Connecti-cut 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.