It used to be the standard question, paper or plastic? But, what if you had to pay either way?
Lawmakers in Montpelier are looking at imposing a 10-cent fee on every carry-out bag you pick up at the grocery or any other retailers whether it's paper or plastic. The measure picks up from a failed effort two years ago to pass an outright ban on plastic bags. Sponsors see it as a way to cut down on a common source of litter, reduce waste and generate money for new statewide recycling efforts.
"This is modeled on a very successful program in Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, Maryland," said Sen. Robert Hartwell, D-Bennington County. "Controlling of plastic bags with more than a 60 percent reduction -- but it's based on a fee, not a ban."
The fee would be divided, with one cent going to retailers and nine cents from every bag going to help implement the state's new universal recycling law, Act 148.
Retail groups say the proposal is getting a mixed reaction.
"Many of our smaller members are sensitive to the few bags that they do now give away with orders, will their customers be offended by that, will it seem like your nickel and diming the customer," said Jim Harrison from the Vt. Grocers' Association.
Although there are details that need to be worked out, Harrison says his members share the same goal as lawmakers.
"We all want to reduce disposal bag use, whether it's plastic or paper, for environmental reasons and for reasons of helping to reduce waste," said Harrison.
At Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier, where a high percentage of customers already bring their bags and receive a five-cent credit, the plan has support.
"I have so many great bags at home and once and a while I forget to bring them, like today. So if you were charging me 10 cents my memory would improve," said Emily Boedecker from Montpelier
Ditto down the street at Shaws ...
"I'm all in favor of improving the environment. We certainly have bags. We don't need to keep getting plastic bags," said Liz Winston from Montpelier.
Even at the Berlin Mall, where plastic is king, firm opposition was hard to come by.
"I just don't think they should charge for the bags. They charge enough for the groceries. I'm not opposed to getting rid of plastic though," said Dennis Swift from Northfield.
Eight states, including Vermont, are considering a fee or tax on the distribution of bags. Currently, three states, California, Massachusetts and Washington, as well as Puerto Rico, are considering bans.
"There's actually a use for some plastic bags, ask people who have cats if they need plastic bags," said Sen. Hartwell.
Testimony on Hartwell's bill begins Thursday, a proposal he hopes is in the bag.
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