Vermont’s plastic bag ban starts July 1. Here’s what you need to know.

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Did you know you can recycle the wrapper from paper towel rolls when you return plastic bags to the grocery store? Ray Dube, sustainability manager for Coca Cola of Northern New England, tells Vermont legislators how it all works.

Vermont’s ban on single-use plastic bags goes into effect July 1.

What does that mean moving forward? Thanks to Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Conservation, here’s a nitty, gritty FAQ to get up to speed:

What businesses must follow the ban?

When the state says stores and food-service establishments, it means the following:

  • Retail of any type.
  • All restaurants and cafeterias of any type.
  • Farmers’ markets and food trucks.
  • Food and shopping delivery services.

An example of where the plastic bag ban does not come into play? Your local newspaper, like the Burlington Free Press, can still wrap paper in a plastic bag for home delivery.

More: As Vermont’s July 1 landfill ban nears, how and where can you toss food scraps?

No more plastic bags at check out

Stores and food service establishments can no longer offer plastic bags at check out. But plastic bags, and paper bags in some cases, will be allowed in stores for loose objects, including:

  • Fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, grains, bakery goods, candy, greeting cards, or small hardware items.
  • Frozen foods, meat, or fish.
  • Flowers.
  • Prescription medications.
  • Laundry, dry cleaning.

What about paper bags at check out?

Stores or food-service establishments may provide paper bags at check outs, with a minimum charge of 10 cents apiece. 

Ban includes Styrofoam and plastic stirrers, straws

Expanded polystyrene (or Styrofoam) and plastic stirrer sticks and straws will no longer be provided by stores and food service establishments, with some exemptions:

  • If a store purchased these single-use products before May 15, 2019, it has until July 1, 2021, to use up its inventory.
  • For straws, customers may request one, and hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities may continue to provide them.
  • Styrofoam is still allowed for uncooked meat, fish, poultry and seafood, as well as for out-of-state products or for sale out of state.

Reminder: Reusable bags are safe

Reusing bags are safe, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Vermont Department of Health. For safety tips, the state recommends bagging your own groceries and washing your own bags between use.

What about other uses for plastic bags?

The new law does not prohibit the sale of plastic bags. So homeowners are in the clear to use plastic bags for trash, dog waste and snack bags.

But the state recommends other alternatives to reduce waste: “reusing plastic bags, such as bread bags or produce bags, for pet waste and as can liners” and “replacing snack bags with reusable containers.”

Contact Alex Abrami at 660-1848 or aabrami@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @aabrami5.

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