Single-Use Plastics Victories

VPIRG’s advocates have been actively working to address the problem of plastic waste for many years. In fact, VPIRG’s Executive Director Paul Burns was featured in a news article in early 1990 (when he worked for NYPIRG) that described a protest he led against plastic grocery bags!

We breathed new life into our plastics campaign work in the summer of 2018 when we launched the “Straws Upon Request Pledge,” a statewide campaign aimed at reducing the number of single-use plastic straws used and thrown away in the state. The idea was simple: businesses that took the pledge would make straws available to their customers only upon request. Dozens of restaurants across the state signed on, making a significant dent in their single-use plastic waste and saving money along the way

At the same time, municipalities across the state were getting on board as well, with Wilmington, Manchester, Middlebury, Montpelier, and Burlington all making plans to tackle plastic pollution. And in the private sector, Vermont’s own Ben & Jerry’s announced plans in early 2019 to ban plastic straws and other single-use plastics from all its Scoop Shops worldwide.

Inspired by this growing movement, we kicked off 2019 with the official launch of our Campaign to Stop Single-Use Plastics. During the 2019 legislative session, VPIRG lead the charge in advancing S. 113, the strongest anti-plastic legislation in the nation. Despite intense lobbying and paid advertising by the plastics industry, the governor heeded the call of VPIRG, our allies, and thousands of Vermonters across the state and signed S.113 into law on June 17, 2019.

The new law (Act 69), which is set to take effect in July 2020, bans troublesome plastic carryout bags, plastic drink stirrers, and expanded polystyrene food service products, makes straws available upon request in most establishments, and imposes a 10-cent fee on most single-use paper bags to encourage reusable bag use. Finally, it, and sets up a working group to develop proposals for next steps to address plastic pollution.

But strong as the new law is, it only scratches the surface of the vast plastic pollution crisis.

That’s why we dedicated our 2019 summer canvass to the issue of single-use plastics, sending canvassers door to door in all 251 cities and towns in Vermont, where they spoke with over 37,000 Vermonters about the plastic pollution crisis and collected more than 21,000 signatures on a petition to lawmakers urging them to support policies that stop single-use plastics.

As we look to the future, we’re committed to continuing to identify and advance new ways to combat the plastic pollution crisis, making Vermont a national leader on this important environmental issue.