“Towns should be free to negotiate the elimination of plastic bags on a local level…charging a fee may hurt, not help.” [Video]

February 10, 2011

Hartford, CT – On Wednesday, February 9th the Environment Committee heard testimony on a bill that would establish a fee for the use of plastic and paper bags at grocery and retail stores.

Senator Toni Boucher (R- 26) is against such a mandate because she believes, “We should support local efforts by our cities and towns to negotiate with retailers. There has been a town by town grass roots campaign to get stores to promote the use of reusable shopping bags and its working.”

Boucher points out in Westport , where the use of plastic bags have been banned, many retailers, without a mandate from the state, already make reusable shopping bags available to their customers. Senator Boucher believes we should incentivize not penalize by imposing a five cent user fee.

“Rather than be punitive we should allow towns to help people change their behavior. Charging a fee will not save the environment, but giving consumers the option of reusable bags will,” said Sen. Boucher. “As the people of Connecticut become more educated regarding this issue, they are embracing environmental responsibility without the imposition of new laws from the state.”

Boucher added, “Five cents per bag will hurt families, especially those in the inner city who are already struggling to make it. In more affluent communities, a 5 cent charge may not be enough to change behavior, although it does add up over time."

Residents in Westport have embraced the local decision to ban plastic bags and the success of that ban has encouraged other towns to consider similar legislation. Currently, there are efforts underway in Fairfield, Darien, Ridgefield, Wilton and other towns to ban the distribution of plastic bags in their stores.

Senator Boucher states that the "Bottom line is that we should be educating and encouraging local stakeholders to reduce the proliferation of environmentally damaging plastic bags. This effort is important in our mission to keep our natural surroundings as clean and healthy as possible and as the desirable assets that continues to attract tourism to our state."

The bill is before the Environment Committee.