FAQ on a Single Use Plastic Bag Ban

1. Why are communities banning plastic bags? Is paper better?

  • The goal is to switch to REUSABLE bags which is the most sustainable practice. 
  • Laws passed across the U.S. show the best way to change consumer behavior to "BYO Bag" is to both ban single-use plastic bags and establish a small fee on paper.
  • Paper bags require more water and energy to produce and deliver, so are not a recommended substitute. However, the lasting effects on marine pollution and litter is smaller as paper is biodegradable.  Plastic is not biodegradable and can take hundreds of years to degrade into smaller pieces of plastic.  This lengthy time span, the amount of single-use plastic that is accumulating, and toxins impacting wildlife and the food stream is a pollution crisis which is anticipated to increase.

2. How effective.are plastic bag bans?  Some examples:

  • The City of San Jose, California saw a plastic litter reduction of approximately 89% in the storm drain system, 60% in the creeks and rivers and 59% in city streets and neighborhoods. 
  • Los Angeles County's ordinance resulted in a 94% reduction in single-use bag use and the per resident economic impact was estimated to be less than $4 per year.
  • Seattle found the amount of plastic bags in residential garbage declined about 50%, while commercial and self-haul waste streams within the city saw a 78% reduction.
  • Hundreds of cities and towns, counties and the State of California ban single-use plastic checkout bags. Hawaii has a de facto state ban, as every county in Hawaii has passed its own prohibition.

3.. What type of ordinance is the Glastonbury Policy and Ordinance Committee considering?

  • Committee members in Glastonbury are currently reviewing ordinances already passed in CT and other areas of the U.S.  
  • A public hearing will be held before any action is taken.
  • Ordinances being reviewed restrict checkout bags used at the cash register. The following bags are NOT banned: bags for produce, newspapers, dry cleaning, small hardware items, etc. or bags sold in packages at stores.

4. Does Glastonbury have the authority to do this?

5. What about state legislation?

  • There are currently several plastic bag and other single-use plastic bills in the state legislature.
  • Click on the "Get Involved" tab at the top of this page to learn more about state bills.

6. I already reuse my plastic bags, so what is the harm?

  • While some make an effort to reuse their plastic checkout bags, the proliferation, distribution and harmful polluting effects remain the same. 
  • Only 1% of plastic bags are returned to stores for recycling and must be shipped out of state as no facility recycles bags in CT. In our area, the rest becomes trash and are incinerated, impacting air quality, or discarded as litter.
  • Bags that are used just once, say to line a small garbage pail, still contribute to unnecessary waste. Bathroom trash pails don't need to be lined and can easily be carried to larger containers to empty.

7. Are plastic bags a problem in Glastonbury?

  • Yes. Lightweight plastic bags easily blow out of trash containers when emptied. 
  • These snag in branches, get matted on the ground, can blow directly into the CT River and wash into storm drains, ending up in Long Island Sound and contributing to marine pollution.
  • A recent collection along 1/10th of a mile of Manchester Rd resulted in over a dozen plastic bags.

8. If this is passed, will this be expensive? 

  • Customers may bring their own bags of any type to package groceries or other purchases for free.
  • Currently, checkout bags aren’t really free. Supermarkets recoup their costs of providing these bags by increasing the price of groceries, meaning people who now bring their own bags to the store are supplementing the cost of disposable bags.
  • A small investment in reusable bags will pay for itself within a few uses, and some markets may give credits or rebates to customers who bring their own bags to the store. 

9. What if I forget my bag?

  • Paper checkout bags will still be available. 
  • Many grocers and chain stores also sell reusable bags for about $1.

10. Why just checkout bags? What about other plastic items?

  • Since most people make store and grocery purchases, and reusable bags are easy to bring from home, this is a simple way to address one type of single-use plastic consumption.
  • Use of plastic check out bags is prolific. A recent report published by the Council of International Environmental Law shows plastic bags are fourth in the top-twenty list of products commonly found polluting shorelines.
  • Local bag ordinances or state legislation helps to bring attention to other single-use plastics, and can lead to a switch to reusable water bottles, reusable coffee and beverage cups, skip the straw, etc.

11. Why can’t we just educate people to reuse bags or recycle?

  • Educational efforts in CT and other states have had very limited success, with only single digit increases of customers voluntarily bringing their own bag. Simply put, laws restricting single-use plastic bags work. "Hybrid laws" that also include a small fee on paper have the biggest effect of reducing waste overall and moving more people to BYO Bag.
  • The truth is we are producing and using more plastic than we can recycle, and much of it ends up as litter and marine pollution. There are no facilities in CT that recycle plastic bags. Though drop-off collections at certain grocery stores exist, few customers participate.
  • Numerous education efforts have already occurred: Glastonbury's Town Nurse led a reusable bag campaign; retailers have given away bags and offer incentives for reuse; “Reduce Reuse Recycle” was coined decades ago, and Governor Jodi Rell advertised sustainable practices through “Do One Thing.”

12. Won’t there be a detrimental impact to local businesses?

  • This has not been an issue in other communities.  Customers have adapted easily and continue to shop at favorite stores.
  • Enacting a fee kept by retailers supports local businesses as paper bags cost more than plastic.

13. How will this impact people who have low incomes?

  • Other towns have successfully instituted Bag Donation locations where community members can drop off and share reusable bags. This has been done at schools, community buildings and faith communities. 
  • Civic groups and faith communities have held "Buy One, Give One" donation drives.
  • Paper fees can also be waved for persons with S.N.A.P. and W.I.C. benefits.
  • Skip the Plastic Glastonbury members are currently making free bags to donate.

14.  What about germs?

  • As with any food handling, sanitary practices prevent bacteria from spreading.
  • Using a designated bag for meats prevents cross-contamination.
  • Fabric bags can easily be thrown in the washing machine for regular cleaning.

15. What about pet waste?

  • Dog owners in hundreds of communities are saving and re-using other types of bags that typically are thrown away, such as bread bags, cereal box liners and frozen vegetable bags. 
  • Cat owners can use the same, or scoop kitty litter into a handled container, made from a milk jug with an opening cut out, and reuse this repeatedly to carry waste to garbage cans. Please do not flush cat litter down the toilet - it spreads a disease called toxoplasmosis into waterways.