Vt. Communities Consider Plastic Bag Bans

The city of Burlington asked voters if they want the city council to pursue policies aimed at limiting waste.

Questions about whether to prohibit the use of plastic bags from stores and restaurants were on Town Meeting Day ballots in a handful of Vermont communities — including Middlebury, Manchester and Burlington.

The issue came up in the form of advisory questions that would require further action from local governments before any limits would be enacted.

Burlington's Town Meeting Day ballot asked voters if they want to encourage the Burlington City Council to take steps to reduce plastic waste, including through bans or other policies on bags, straws, and styrofoam take-out food containers.

"I hate to see these plastic bags flying like kites and landing in trees," said Burlington voter Jannet Bond, who voted to tell city councilors she'd like new limits on waste.

"It's a little overreaching," countered another city voter, Ted Miles. "It's something the city itself should not be doing. It's something — if you're going to it — it needs to be more statewide."

Last year, Brattleboro became the first Vermont community to ban single-use bags.

At the artists' shop Thirty-Odd in Burlington's South End, self-described "upcycler" Moe O'Hara cuts shapes out of plastic shopping bags which her friends take home from other stores. O'Hara then fuses seven layers of them together, making new baby bibs from those old bags.

"The whole purpose is to do away with plastic bags," O'Hara said of the green message behind the bibs. "It's not sustainable on this Earth. So each of my products that I make, I hope eventually not to make them."

O'Hara voted in favor of the advisory question to encourage councilors to pursue serious waste reduction strategies.

"My focus would be not on elimination — my focus would be reduction," said Dave Hartnett, a longtime member of the Burlington City Council who recently announced he'll step down from his seat.

Hartnett manages a convenience store, where he said he plans to switch from plastic drink stirrers to wood. Still, the Democrat told necn he prefers education campaigns to outright bans.

"When you start demanding people to live their lifestyles a certain way — they can't use this or they can't have this in their homes — I think people get a little defensive about that," Hartnett said.

The Town Meeting Day recommendations from city voters will go to the Burlington City Council, which will decide if a new ordinance is needed to reduce single-use plastic waste.

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