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A Democratic and Republican Governor Both Sign Bills Outlawing Plastic Bags on Same Day


If you’re headed to New England this summer, make sure you remember your reusable bags. On Monday, the governors of Maine and Vermont–one a Democrat and the other a Republican—signed laws to prohibit single-use plastic bags.

Maine’s statute, MRSA §1611, signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills (D), will go into effect on April 22, 2020, in time for Earth Day. It says:

This bill prohibits a retail establishment from using single-use carry-out bags to bag products at the point of sale or otherwise make single-use carry-out bags available to customers…

The law creates an exemption though, for establishments that provide recyclable paper bags –those can still be sold at the checkout counter for at least 5¢ per bag.  There are also a few very specific exceptions—such as pet stores selling goldfish or insects in bags, pharmacies packaging medication in bags, and bags used for vehicle tires.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) signed a similar measure into law in his state that’ll go into effect in July 2020. It prohibits prohibits food establishments from providing plastic carryout bags, bars polystyrene food service products (something Maine has already done), and outlaws the distribution of plastic straws to customers. The Vermont law also goes a step farther and establishes a “Single-Use Products Working Group,” charged with studying and reporting on the environmental impact of single-use products within the state.

Maine and Vermont aren’t the only states throwing their hats into the environmental conservation ring. New Jersey recently proposed a measure that would outlaw all single-use paper and plastic bags–even those that are recyclable or could be sold at the point of sale.

[image via FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos