Ban on single-use plastic bags and straws moving through Vermont Senate

Michael Bielawski/TNR

NO MORE THROWAWAY PLASTICS?: Michael O’Grady, counsel to the Legislature, reviews language in a bill that would ban single-use plastic bags and straws. He spoke at a meeting with the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee on Friday.

MONTPELIER — A ban on single-use plastic bags and straws was approved by a 4-1 vote of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee on Friday morning.

The penalties per violation include a written warning for first offense, a $25 civil penalty for the second offense and a $100 penalty for each offense thereafter.

The legislation creates a single-use product working group of industry and government professionals who will make new recommendations as necessary. The working group would disband in 2020.

Straws can still be provided at food service restaurants, but only by request.

The bill states: “A food service establishment shall not sell or provide a single-use plastic straw to a customer, except that a food service establishment shall provide a single-use plastic straw to a person upon request.”

Single-use bags more than 2.25 millimeters thick may still be allowed. Committee Chair Sen. Christopher Bray, D-Addison, said these criteria should cover the vast majority of the estimated 332 million lightweight bags used each year.

Bray told True North that eliminating plastic bag use in Vermont is the equivalent of taking 1,927 cars off the road, and it saves $13.2 million in costs to produce the bags.

The bill calls for a 10-cent fee for paper bags. Sen. Corey Parent, R-Franklin, the lone vote against the bill, questioned how the state can enforce that stores charge this fee to their customers.

“They are already charging for the bag in the cost of the product,” Parent said.

Bray noted that the Retail and Grocers Association had requested such a fee. He also noted that ultimately nudging customers to use reusable bags is the final solution.

Sen. John Rodgers, D-Essex-Orleans, said the bill is another example of punishing those who have more responsible habits for the actions of those who are wasteful. He said his family reuses their plastic bags multiple times.

“Some of them do get used a whole bunch of times, and when they are at the end of their life we recycle them,” he said. “What we are doing again is legislating to the lowest common denominator, for the people who don’t reuse and recycle them.”

Michael O’Grady, deputy chief counsel from the Office of Legislative Council, reviewed the bill before the vote.

Most concerns regarding plastic bags pertain to the fact that they are non-biodegradable. Rodgers explained the difference between compostable and degrading.

“Degrading means it’s just gonna break down into smaller pieces, it doesn’t necessarily turn back into real earth material,” he said. “Compostable means it will break down [into each material].”

According to the Denmark-bases sustainability website, even when plastic bags do finally break down they continue to hurt the environment.

“Plastic bags remain toxic even after it breaks down,” the site states. “It doesn’t biodegrade, it photo-degrades. It means that after it degrades, it breaks down into smaller and smaller toxic bits of itself — and bleeds and contaminates the environment.”

A lot of plastics are ending up in the oceans, according to

“In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments — like grocery bags, straws, and soda bottles—are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.” the group’s report states.

The same report cites a phenomenon called “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” This is an area of ocean surface twice the size of Texas littered with floating plastics located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California.

Meanwhile, town by town, communities in Vermont are already making the move away from plastic. On Town Meeting Day, 84 percent of Burlington residents voted to advise City Council to ban single-use plastic bags from stores. South District councilwoman Democrat Joan Shannon pushed the effort to get the resolution onto the ballot.

Last year, Brattleboro implemented a similar ban which has been in place since July 1. Some local stores are already selling reusable bags to accommodate the new rule.

As news gets around that these plastics are to be banned, environmentalists are calling for other materials to likewise be banned.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

10 thoughts on “Ban on single-use plastic bags and straws moving through Vermont Senate

  1. Well once again the brainless in Montpelier have no clue what the little people of VT do all by themselves.. I would bet that at Least 75% most likely higher, already reuse their plastic bags for things such as extra liners in waste baskets, bring lunches in, bring dishes to other homes, use them for bringing stuff shoes etc to work and many other ways!
    Forbidding businesses to have them is plain dumb. So when we reuse their chosen bags and get sick from whatever germs are leftover from the last use of leaky food, maybe we can sue the state of VT for negligence ??

    • Wish the Montpelier crapologists would look at this video so they might know how stupid they are.

  2. Geez passing laws to outlaw straws.Getting to be a serious time. Wonder if outlawing guns will be next? Maybe this “Michael O’Grady, counsel to the Legislature” guy could convince a committee to propose and pass gun control laws. Such worldwide knowledge close at hand that the legislative body will listen to, to fill their empty brain matter.

    It sounds like the VT Gov paying 400K for the likes of Jonathan Gruber the hired economic consultant for The single-payer health care scheme. Another VT Gov outside expert to fill empty brains.

    Golly gee wheeze, better move out of state to save my dangerous chain saw. O’Grady might know about that also.

  3. Just like those damn guns have a mind of their own….plastic bags just up and move by themselves to litter the landscape. Idiots! Fine people who litter!!! Simple!!! And its already on the books, isn’t it? As is the case with many problems in this country, we don’t use the laws already in existence (there’s one that says its against the law to hire illegal aliens….put that into effect, and poof! No magnet for them to come.)

  4. ““In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments”

    But the homeless are allowed/encouraged to live in tents on the street and crap on the street and
    throw their syringes on the street….(largest outmigration of taxpayers from that cali area)

    Did the leftarded legislature send a nasty letter to India and China who account for 95% of the plastic trash in the ocean??

  5. If this passes, for the rest of the time I have left on earth, I’ll send Bray a straw and a plastic bag through the mail every single day.

  6. So let me understand, Vermont knee deep in Debt, Taxes, Drugs, No Jobs and our Legislators
    are worried about plastic bags & straws ………….where’s the Priority ??

    What are all the homeless going to use when they are collecting cans if they pass this bill
    making them illegal with fines ?? ……

    Sounds pretty cruel to me !! but again I haven’t seen many bills lately coming out of Montpelier
    that made any sense or cared about anyone but themselves !!

    And why do we have these people ??

  7. These people should ask their servants if they reuse plastic bags. They clearly do not shop , keep or clean their own homes. Most people reuse the bags at least once.

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