OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 226



This bill phases out, in two steps, plastic bags given to customers at certain retail stores' points of sale that are not reusable, compostable, or 100% recyclable. The bill refers to these bags as “single-use carryout bags.”

Under the bill, by July 1, 2018, half of the single-use carryout bags the stores provide to customers for free at points of sale must (1) be 100% recyclable, with at least 80% post-consumer recycled material; (2) have a handle; and (3) be designed and manufactured for multiple reuses. And by July 1, 2020, 100% of the single-use carryout bags the stores provide to customers for free at points of sale must meet the above requirements.

“Post-consumer recycled material” is material meant for solid waste disposal because it completed its intended end use and product life cycle, but not material and byproduct from, and reused as part of, an original manufacturing and fabrication process.

The bill also requires the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) commissioner to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with grocery and retail industry representatives. The goals of the MOU are to (1) reduce by half the number of paper and single-use carryout bags distributed to customers by 2021; (2) establish incentives to reduce demand; (3) establish recycling programs; and (4) increase the recycled content of bags and the availability of recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable bags.

Lastly, the bill repeals a requirement for retail stores offering plastic bags to also offer paper bags and inform customers of the choice.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2016


The bill applies to the following retail establishments:

1. full-line, self-service retail stores with at least $2 million in gross annual sales that sell dry groceries, canned goods, or nonfood items, and some perishable items;

2. retail stores of at least 10,000 square feet of retail space that generate sales or use tax; and

3. convenience food stores, foodmarts, or other entities that sell (a) limited lines of goods, generally such things as milk, bread, soda, and snack food or (b) goods for off-premises consumption.


The bill's phase-out requirements apply to plastic bags given to customers at points of sale that are not reusable, compostable, or 100% recyclable.

Under the bill, a “compostable bag” is a bag that can be broken down through accelerated biological decomposition of organic material under controlled conditions. It must meet, at least, the ASTM International Standard for Specification for Compostable Plastics D6400 (see BACKGROUND).

A “reusable bag” is one given or sold by a store to a customer that ordinarily:

1. has a handle and is designed to be reused many times;

2. is machine washable or made from a material that can be cleaned or disinfected;

3. is at least 2.25 mils thick, if made of durable plastic; and

4. contains no lead, cadmium, or other toxic material that may threaten public health.

The following bags are exempt from the phase-out requirements:

1. pharmacy bags for prescription medication;

2. bags without handles used to protect purchased items from damaging or contaminating other purchased items, when placed in a reusable, compostable, or 100% recyclable bag;

3. bags to carry unwrapped food; and

4. bags without handles to be placed over (a) clothing on a hanger or (b) newspapers.


Under the bill, the DEEP commissioner must enter into an MOU with grocery and retail industry representatives by January 1, 2017 to help reduce environmental impacts from paper and plastic single-use carryout bags.

The purpose of the MOU is to establish commitments to:

1. work toward a 50% reduction in the distribution of paper bags and single-use carryout bags to consumers by 2021, with performance targets to assure the goal is met and parameters to verify the reduction;

2. establish incentives to encourage reducing demand for these bags and increase consumers' use of reusable bags;

3. establish single-use carryout bag and other plastic packaging recycling programs at all participating supermarkets, grocery stores, and retailers; and

4. increase the recycled content and percentage of recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable bags offered for distribution.


ASTM D6400

ASTM International is an international voluntary standards development organization. Its D6400 is a specification for plastics and plastic products designed to be composted in municipal and industrial aerobic composting facilities.

Related Bill

sSB 233, reported favorably by the Environment Committee, requires the DEEP commissioner to adopt regulations on consumer packaging that include standards and requirements for (1) reducing its volume and weight in the waste stream and (2) increasing its recyclability and the proportion of recycled materials used in consumer packaging manufacturing.


Environment Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute