FAQs ABOUT THE PLASTIC CHECKOUT BAG BAN

What is the intent of the Plastic Checkout Bag Ban Ordinance?


The intent of the ordinance is to significantly reduce the environmental and community impacts related to single-use plastic and paper checkout bags and promote a major shift toward the use of reusable bags.




How should I carry my groceries home? I need those free bags.


Paper checkout bags will be available for a 10 cent charge to customers who forget to bring their own 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. Additionally, there is nothing in the ordinance that prohibits customers from bringing their own bags of any type to take home their groceries or other purchases. It is important to note that plastic checkout bags aren’t free. Supermarkets recoup the estimated 2 to 5 cents they pay per plastic bag by increasing the price of groceries, meaning even people who bring their own bags to the store are supplementing the cost of plastic bags.




I already reuse plastic bags, so what's the harm?


While some people make an effort to reuse their plastic checkout bags, the proliferation, distribution and harmful polluting effects remain the same. Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes. Only 1% of plastic bags are returned to stores for recycling.




What about biodegradable and compostable bags?


Unfortunately, bags marketed as “biodegradable” and “compostable,” which are made from corn or other plant material, are not recyclable. They’re designed to be composted in special industrial composting facilities. Industrial facilities in Connecticut do not currently accept compostable bags or other corn-based items marketed as “compostable.”




What if I can’t afford to purchase a reusable bag?


Consumers participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and customers participating in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or a similar governmental food assistance program are exempt from the paper checkout bag charge if they have forgotten their reusable bags.




Why is there a compensation on paper checkout bags? Is it a tax?


The charge reimburses retailers for costs related to purchasing paper bags, providing educational materials for both customers and employees, as well as making any necessary software changes. The entire fee stays with the business establishment; it is not a tax. None of it goes to the City of Norwalk or the State of Connecticut.




Are reusable bags safe? Won’t they harbor germs?


According to guidance from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, given the most current scientific information available, reusable bags do not serve as a significant source of infection for COVID-19. As with any food handling, normal washing and hygiene practices are important. Click here for information about washing your reusable bags.




What bags are affected?


All plastic and paper checkout bags provided by retail establishments at the point of checkout are covered by the ordinance. The ordinance prohibits plastic checkout bags; it does not prohibit plastic bags used in a retail establishment, such as produce and similar bags, nor does it prohibit newspaper bags, laundry bags or bags sold in packages. Paper carryout bags may be offered to customers for a charge of 10-cents. These paper carryout bags must be 100% recyclable, contain at least 40% post-consumer recycled content (except that an eight pound or smaller bag must contain a minimum of 20% post-consumer recycled content), and have printed conspicuously on the outside of the bag the words “Reusable” and “Recyclable” along with the percentage of post-consumer recycled content. The 10-cent fee, which is not a tax and stays with the merchant, must be itemized on the receipt. You can read more here.




Why do we need another law? Isn’t an education campaign enough?


Sometimes it takes more than education to change habits that are considered part of everyday life but that are harmful to the community. A few examples: There are penalties for littering, texting while driving, not wearing a seat belt. The ordinance is similar to these forms of legislation, where voluntary compliance has not achieved the desired results in reducing the number of plastic shopping bags used by residents.




Who is opposed to this type of plastic pollution reduction ordinance?


The largest opposition comes from the fossil fuel, plastics and chemical industries/lobbyists, but also from consumers that just don't want to change their habits.




When did the ordinance take effect?


The ordinance took effect on July 8, 2019. Click here to read about it.





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