Apr 23, 2024
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - State officials say single-use items like paper and packaging make up almost one-third of Vermont’s trash, which is why a 2020 law was implemented to reduce the impact on landfills and the environment. Grocery stores eliminated plastic bags and shoppers were encouraged to bring their own. For some Vermonters, the practice has become second nature.“I always bring my own shopping bags. If I don’t have them, I’m not going shopping,” said Scarlett Duncan as she picked up groceries at City Market in Burlington.Duncan says she’s made it a priority to go green and has noticed others have gotten on the reusable train, too.“I think I see way more people with bags now than let’s say five years ago, way more,” she said.A 2023 University of Vermont study found that consumers used 91% fewer plastic bags on average after the law was implemented.Even before the law was implemented, Cheray MacFarland of City Market says the co-op offered thicker plastic bags that customers were encouraged to reuse, with around 600,000 distributed a year. But when the law came, the plastic left.“It hasn’t necessarily bucked the trends. People are still using as many paper bags. But for as long as City Market has sort of been around, we’ve been pushing reusable bags,” said MacFarland.MacFarland says while some customers had questions about where the reusable plastic bags went, they don’t get complaints about the paper bags. She says the paper bags are more expensive -- double what the plastic bags cost -- and notes that the 10-cent fee doesn’t really cover it. The co-op also has a café and takeout options, all of which use take-out containers made with recyclable or compostable material.“If it’s plastic that isn’t recycled, it’s just as dangerous as the single use. So, we make sure that everything that’s sourced is fully recycled. That’s definitely been top of mind,” said MacFarland.The ban doesn’t only apply to plastic bags, it includes styrofoam containers, plastic stir sticks, and makes plastic straws available by request.Alyssa Eiklor of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources says retailers have gotten on board. She says they haven’t had to issue any fines and have only received a handful of complaints.“In those instances, we either reach out to the business over the phone or we visit them and we just make sure that they understand the law-- that they know it exists. Sometimes there’s confusion, especially early on, a lot of places thought that compostable plastic bags were exempt, which they’re not,” said Eiklor.
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