Environment Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-226

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING SINGLE-USE CARRYOUT BAGS.

Vote Date:

3/11/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/4/2016

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Environment Committee

Representative Kim Rose, 118th District

REASONS FOR BILL:

Requires retail stores to transition to single-use plastic carryout bags that are 100 percent recyclable and contain at least 80 percent post-consumer recycled materials, and mandates that the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with grocery and retail industries to foster a 50 percent reduction in both paper and plastic single-use bag distribution by 2021. Plastic bags are responsible for significant pollution in Connecticut's ecosystem, and can prove harmful to wildlife and marine species when ingested or present in animal habitats. The production of these bags requires extensive amounts of resources such as water, oil and natural gas to produce, and their incineration can lead to the release of toxic substances such as dioxins. Further, many types of plastic bags are not suitable for single-stream recycling and can cause damage to machinery at recycling facilities.

SUBSTITUTE LANGUAGE

Makes a minor revision to the bill's language

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Commissioner Robert Klee, Department of Energy & Environmental Protection: The Department is supportive of the bill's intended purpose of increasing recycling by focusing on post-consumer recycled content. The Commissioner states that the bill provides “a clear path forward for the reduction and recycling of single-use bags.”

Changes Recommended

-Strike references to “one hundred per cent recyclable bag” and “compostable bag” in subsection 4, which provides the definition for “single-use carryout bag.” DEEP argues that most single-use bags are technically 100 percent recyclable even though they are often not recycled successfully, and that compostable bags can cause problems for other plastic resins during the recycling process.

-Strike references to “biodegradable” and “compostable” in section d for the reasons mentioned above.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Denise Merrill, Secretary of State – State of Connecticut: Secretary Merrill testified that she supports the bill and the “common-sense benchmarks” it implements to “increase the percentage of recyclable, biodegradable and compostable bags.” She added that passage of the bill would put Connecticut alongside other states that are seeking to foster a “culture shift” among consumers.

Carolyn Bayne, Natural Resources Director – League of Women Voters of Connecticut: In her testimony, Ms. Bayne stated her support for DEEP entering into an MOU with retail industries to achieve a 50 percent reduction in bags by 2021. However, she expressed concern that the bill as drafted would not incentivize consumers to reuse plastic bags instead of discarding them.

Changes Recommended

-Create incentives to reuse bags as intended or transition consumers to using fully reusable bags

Kim O'Rourke & Virginia Walton, Co-Presidents – Connecticut Recyclers Coalition: Ms. O'Rourke and Ms. Walton support the concept of the bill and “initiates conversation on this topic.” However, CRC feels the bill does not fully address plastic bag and film recycling.

Changes Recommended

-Support the Wrap Recycling Action Program, where DEEP will work with industry representatives to reduce the use of plastic film. If the initiative is successful, CRC would then suggest the General Assembly pursue an Extended Producer Responsibility program.

Dave McLaughlin, Executive Director – Clean Ocean Access: In his testimony, Mr. McLaughlin stated his optimism that the “environmental stewardship demonstrated by Connecticut can lead the rest of America to eliminate single-use plastic bags.” He added that the issue of plastic bag litter along the coastline has not improved but is hopeful the bill will “lead the state forward.”

David Downie, Department of Politics and Environmental Studies Program – Fairfield University: Mr. Downie expressed his belief that ensuring that bags are both recyclable and made from recycled materials – as well as reducing the number of single-use bags – will “yield significant benefits” for Connecticut. He argues that the resources needed to produce plastic bags and the negative impact these bags have once in the ecosystem pose a significant problem that this bill will help ameliorate.

Louis Burch – Citizens Campaign for the Environment: Mr. Burch states in his testimony that due to the “adverse environmental impacts” that result from the widespread use of plastic bags, CCE supports the bill's intent and the desire to reduce plastic bag consumption. However, he further states that the bill “does not go far enough” in furtherance of its goals.

Changes Recommended

-Implement a fee on checkout bags or a complete phase-out

Mike Paine, President – Paine's Recycling and Rubbish Removal Inc.: Mr. Paine testified that the bill's focus on plastic bag recycling programs will be beneficial to the state since reuse and recycling is a better alternative than disposal. He adds that the bill will help to remove bags from his facility while simultaneously yielding environmental benefits.

Robert Fromer – Environmental Consultant: Mr. Fromer states that the bill supports “DEEP's ongoing effort to increase the amount of recycled material” from one-third to 60 percent by 2024. He encouraged retailers to follow the lead of BJs and Costco by foregoing plastic or paper bag use and use cardboard shipping boxes instead, and called an eventual ban on plastic bags “the only rational decision going forward.”

Winston Averill – Regional Recycling Coordinator: In his testimony, Mr. Averill calls increasing the recycled content of bags “a great idea.” However, he states that the bill could do more to deal with the adverse effects of plastic bags.

Changes Recommended

-Foster more inclusive discussion on product stewardship for all packaging materials, including plastic bags.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Cathy Foley, Group Vice President – American Forest & Paper Association: Ms. Foley testified that the AF&PA is concerned that the post-consumer content requirement would wrongfully penalize a product that is “highly recycled, recyclable, compostable and renewable.” She added that the bill's provisions would “increase the percentage of recyclable, biodegradable and compostable bags.”

Cheryl Reedy, Member – Connecticut Product Stewardship Council: Ms. Reedy stated that the bill “does not propose how to reduce the quantity of single-use carryout bags” and that the requirement that bags be comprised from a greater percentage of post-consumer recycled material is insufficient. She adds that the bill seems to “unduly burden” the retail grocery industry.

Ms. Reedy's testimony was supported and endorsed by the testimony of Martin Mador, Legislative Chair – Sierra Club Connecticut Chapter.

Jen Iannucci, Director – Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority: In her testimony, Ms. Iannucci argues that the legislation should seek to reduce the number of single-use bags rather than changing the composition. She further states that HRRA would support an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program aimed at recycling all forms of packaging, including plastic bags.

John Chunis – Rocky Hill Resident: Mr. Chunis states that the bill represents an “unnecessary government burden that will eventually lead to higher costs for all consumers.” He argues that plastic bags are actually a benefit to consumers and the environment due to the ability to reuse them multiple times.

Wayne Pesce, President – Connecticut Food Association: Mr. Pesce testified that the post-consumer materials mandated in the bill “are of poor quality for consumers and competitive sourcing of them is more costly.” He adds that consumer education, awareness and convenience will be

Reported by: Jared Savas

Date: 3/17/16