Barring another extension of Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive order, Connecticut’s 10 cent tax on single-use plastic grocery bags will return on Wednesday, July 1.
Lamont initially suspended the plastic bag tax until May 15 in response to concerns that reusable shopping bags might put grocery store workers at risk of contracting the coronavirus. The governor then extended his order until June 30, just two days before the tax was set to be reinstated.
However, with Connecticut’s cases decreasing steadily and the state’s reopening schedule for businesses on track, it appears Connecticut shoppers will begin to pay the tax for plastic bags, have to purchase paper bags from grocers or bring their own reusable bags when they go shopping.
According to a press release issued jointly by the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Department of Revenue Services, “Retailers should prepare to resume collection of the state-level plastic bag fee on July 1, 2020.”
“As it has throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection strongly encourages state residents who use reusable bags for shopping to continue to do so,” the press release states. “Over the past year, Connecticut shoppers have overwhelmingly embraced the use of reusable shopping bags, which helps reduce plastic waste that harms the environment.”
Connecticut – now one of the states seeing a decline in COVID-19 cases – had been a hotspot of the pandemic, prompting calls from grocery store employees and state legislators like Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, for Lamont to suspend the tax.
Previous studies found viruses are transmittable through reusable bags. Retailers believed single-use grocery bags could decrease the risk of grocery store employees from contracting the virus, who were considered essential workers during the public health crisis.
The Connecticut Food Association asked the Lamont administration to keep the suspension of the tax until the third phase of reopening, which may come in just a couple weeks.
The DEEP, however, said “given the most current scientific information available, reusable bags do not serve as a significant source of infection for COVID-19,” and indicated that reusable bags could and should be washed and disinfected between uses.
Although Connecticut has seen a decline in hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus, the state’s unemployment rate remains very high, like the rest of the country, and the tax will increase the price at the check-out line.
The plastic bag tax was passed as part of the 2019 budget and is set to expire in July of 2021 when single-use plastic bags will be banned in the state.
The tax was estimated to bring in $28 million, but the response from shoppers and grocery stores was to shun the bags completely and the new tax fell far short of revenue expectations, taking in only $7 million.
Connecticut grocery stores, by and large, are still following guidelines from the Center for Disease Control, requiring that masks be worn by shoppers and staff, frequent disinfecting of surfaces and maintaining social distancing measures.