JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT ESTABLISHING A TAX ON SINGLE-USE PLASTIC AND PAPER BAGS.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Rep. Josh Elliott, 88th Dist.
Rep. Emmett D. Riley, 46th
Dist. Rep. Kim Rose, 118th Dist.
Rep. Ezequiel Santiago, 130th Dist.
REASONS FOR BILL:
The bill requires certain retail stores to charge customers at least five cents for each single-use carryout bag stores provide or sell to them. Revenue from the bag fees will go to the Department of Revenue Service (DRS), who shall make such funds available to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) for environmental conservation purposes. Single-use carryout bags are often known for their negative environmental impact. Additionally, recent state budgets have cut or removed funding for Connecticut state parks.
Substitute Language – LCO No. 4658
Substitute language removes the provision that requires DRS to make funds, generated by the carryout bag fee, available to DEEP for environmental conservation purposes. DRS shall deposit such funds into the General Fund's maintenance, repair, and improvement account for state parks. This account is a separate, non-lapsing, account in the General Fund pursuant to section 23-15b of the general statutes.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Robert J. Klee, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP):
Suggests changes to the language of the bill. The bill's definition of single-use carryout bag provides that such a bag “is not one hundred per cent recyclable.” Currently, plastic bags used at retail stores are 100 percent recyclable if they are collected and managed properly. Therefore, the definition used for single-use carryout bag in this bill would exclude the vast majority of single-use bags from the proposed fee. Additionally,
the administration is not in favor of the establishment of non-lapsing funds. Revenue generated through the fee as prescribed in the bill should be deposited into the General Fund.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Amy Blaymore Paterson, Executive Director, Connecticut Land Conservation Council (CLCC): This bill not only provides a resource for state parks, it also serves as an incentive to reduce the use of plastic and paper bags. State parks are chronically underfunded; Connecticut is one of two states in the country where state park funding is exclusively supported through the General Fund. CLCC encourages the funds to go into a dedicated non-lapsing account intended for the maintenance, repair and improvements.
Lori Brown, Executive Director, Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV): Connecticut residents use approximately 400 million plastic bags annually. Unfortunately, studies have shown that only 5-10% of these plastic bags are properly recycled nationwide. The average plastic bag is used for about 12 minutes, but can cause damage to the environment for over 1,000 years. People need to be given an incentive to choose reusable bags instead of plastic disposable shopping bags.
Louis W. Burch, Connecticut Program Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment: A five cent fee on single-use plastic bags will save natural resources, reduce litter, prevent plastic pollution in our waterways, and incentivizes the use of reusable bags. Plastic bags pollute open space and waterways. Many forms of wildlife die from strangulation with plastic bags or from toxins released by such bags. Municipalities are spending millions of dollars to dispose of bags that have clogged storm drains to prevent flooding. Additionally, plastic bags cause costly delays in recycling and solid waste infrastructures.
Eileen Grant, Board Member, Friends of Connecticut State Parks: Plastic bags have and increasingly negative environmental impact and also incur needless costs to the State for inevitable clean-up. Additionally, the legislature should establish a “parks dedicated non-lapsing account into which new revenues be deposited.”
Eric Hammerling, Executive Director, Connecticut Forest & Park Association: This
bill will encourage consumers to use cloth or other reusable bags and generates funds that will address critical shortfalls experienced by Connecticut state parks. Funds generated should be deposited in a dedicated, non-lapsing account to hire seasonal workers, maintain state parks, and provide critical public service.
Annie Hornish, Connecticut Senior State Director, The Humane Society of the United States: Plastic grocery bags wash into bodies of water and pose a threat to wildlife through ingestion or entanglement. Furthermore, plastic bags break down into microplastics and cause similar problems with ingestion for marine and aquatic invertebrates.
Martin Mador, Legislative Chair, Connecticut Chapter of the Sierra Club: This bill is an effective incentive for people to minimize the use of single-use bags. The fee on bags is a reminder that the use of these bags has consequences, which in turn will encourage the consumer to use reusable bags.
Wayne Pesce, President, Connecticut Food Association (CFA): Reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic bags, in lieu of its elimination, is the best course of action for Connecticut's grocery industry. Since 2010 Connecticut Supermarkets have sold over 7 million reusable bags. CFA estimates that the use of single-use bags has decreased by over 30% since 2010.
Emmett D. Riley, State Representative 46th Dist.: Disposable shopping bags are a significant portion of daily trash having harmful effects on the environment. Many consumers have chosen to buy reusable bags for grocery shopping, yet there is still a large amount of consumers who rely on plastic bags. Plastic bags litter our beaches and parks and it is unclear how long they take to decompose.
Melissa J. Schlag, Communications Coordinator, Connecticut Fund for Environment: Some estimates show that globally, more than a trillion plastic bags a year are thrown away. These bags are not only discarded in open spaces, but they pollute waterways and kill wildlife. Birds and aquatic life get strangled by the bags and often die from ingesting the toxic plastic. “Tax-the-bag” programs have been successful around the country, proving that additional taxes on plastic bags will decrease the use of these bags; therefore, also reducing pollution. The revenue generated should be used to help fund pollution and littering education and cleanup programs throughout the state.
David Sutherland, Director of Government Relations, The Nature Conservancy: The Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) needs new funding sources to support the loss of positions in the past ten years. This bill addresses two important issues, both funding for DEEP and the proliferation of single-use plastic bags. However, there are concerns that the definition used for single-use plastic bags as one that is not one hundred percent recyclable will exclude millions of single use plastic from the tax. Most single-use plastic bags are recyclable, but require a different recycling and collection process than items collected through curbside pickup programs.
The Environment Committee received additional 6 similar testimonies supporting the bill, expressing support for the shift of plastic bags to reusable bags, and as a funding mechanism for Connecticut state parks.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Isabel Blank, Intern, Yankee Institute for Public Policy: Plastic bags are one of the most re-used items in people's homes and reused by over 90 percent of consumers. Low-Income individuals are more reliant on the convenience of plastic bags and use them more often. Taxes on plastic bags force families to spend more at the checkout, causing them to lose money, and small businesses to lose customers. A 2012 study by the National Center for Policy Analysis found that banning plastic bags negatively impacted retail sales and employment in the banned area. Similar negative economic impacts have risen where bags are taxed. Education is the best way to care for the environment, not through a regressive tax.
Joanne Mendes, Executive Director, New England Convenience Store & Energy Marketers Association (NECSEMA): Convenience stores will be negatively impacted by the imposition of a five cent bag fee. Most convenience stores customer, particularly in urban areas, do not come in with reusable bags. This added fee of five cents on plastic bags would increase costs for hundreds of transactions per week, and will impact the bottom line for these businesses.
Reported by: Mary Justine Hockenberry /
Ussawin R. Bumpen