Single-use plastics ban advances in House

The House gave final approval on Friday to legislation addressing the problem of single-use plastic pollution in Vermont, this came after an initial vote of 124-20 on S. 113. The bill would institute a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene cups, plates and other food service products, and would require restaurants to adopt a straws-upon-request policy.

Thanks to decades of unchecked consumption, plastics waste can now be found everywhere from the middle of Lake Champlain to within our own digestive tracts. Single-use plastics pose a direct threat to the health and safety of people, animals, and ecosystems worldwide, a fact acknowledged by many legislators during several hours of spirited debate on the House floor.

With momentum building nationally on the issue of plastic pollution – hundreds of cities and counties around the country have already passed restrictions on the use of plastic bags and expanded polystyrene containers – it’s high time that Vermont lawmakers take a firm stand in addressing single-use plastics. If passed into law, S.113 would be the most comprehensive action taken by any state to date.

“This legislation represents a huge victory for the environment over plastic pollution. No state has gone further to address the problem of single-use plastic bags, straws and polystyrene,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

Even so, the bill only begins to scratch the surface of the vast plastic pollution crisis. “This is honestly the bare minimum that this legislation could be, and it could be a heck of a lot more stringent,” noted Rep. Patrick Seymour, R-Sutton.

While Thursday’s vote marks an important step forward in tackling single-use plastic pollution in Vermont, the fight isn’t over yet. Differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill still need to be worked out and then it will need the governor’s signature to become law.

“This is good for public health, the Vermont tourist economy and the environment. Once the differences are worked out with the Senate, our great hope will be that the Governor signs this bill into law,” said Judith Enck, founder of Beyond Plastics at Bennington College.

There’s still time to make your voice heard on this important issue. You can add your name to our petition urging Vermont lawmakers to support policies that stop single-use plastics at https://www.vpirg.org/stop-single-use-plastics/