plastic bags

New Vermont Laws Aimed At Cutting Plastic and Food Waste Take Effect

The rules center around bags, take-out containers and composting

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A new set of laws took effect Wednesday in Vermont that are designed to protect the environment in a state that has long prided itself on taking care of its natural resources.

As of July 1, stores across the state can no longer bag customers’ purchases in plastic.

At Quality Market in Barre, customer Joe Greene picked up a reusable shopping bag for $1.49 to carry his purchases in.

“The hardest thing is just getting to remember to bring them with you,” Greene said of reusable bags.

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Flimsy plastic is still allowed in the produce section, but at check-out, it’s bring-your-own or paper bags only, with many stores adding a small fee for paper.

“We are charging 20 cents for our bags, because that’s what our cost is,” Pam Trag, the owner of Quality Market, told NECN and NBC10 Boston.

Plastic drinking straws now can’t be given to customers automatically either, though a customer may still ask for one.

A Dunkin' location in Essex Junction was giving out free reusable straws Wednesday.

At Still Smok’n BBQ, also in Essex Junction, Phillip Bissonnette’s now using heavy paper to-go containers instead of polystyrene foam. That material also got the boot at take-out places under Vermont law.

“It’s a little more money but it’s well worth it,” Bissonnette said of the new paper-based to-go containers. “We’re trying to be as green as we can be. We’ve got to stay here for a while, you know.”

Foam trays are allowed for some common applications, such as to sell meat in grocery stores.

Josh Kelly, of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, reminded Vermonters Wednesday that kitchen scraps don’t go in their household trash anymore.

Under another new rule, food scraps have to be composted, either in backyard bins, through specialized haulers or at more than a hundred food waste drop-off spots at recycling centers around the state.

“If we were to compost Vermont’s food waste that’s in the trash right now, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking about 9,000 cars off the road,” Kelly told NECN and NBC10 Boston.

To further work to keep food waste out of landfills, the state has a new educational website, scrapfoodwaste.org.

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