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Vermont community bans plastic shopping bags

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. >> The Vermont town of Brattleboro has banned local businesses from giving out single-use plastic shopping bags.

The ban went into effect on July 1, after the community overwhelmingly passed a referendum last year.

“We know there’s a lot of folks in the community who have been really looking forward to the implementation of this ordinance and are probably keeping an eye on things out there, so we expect that we’ll hear if there are folks who are still using plastic bags,” Town Manager Peter Elwell told Vermont Public Radio. “And we’re almost a week in, and we have not heard of any instances of that.”

Three area businesses have asked for a six-month extension to comply.

Violators would receive a warning. After a third warning, they face a $50 fine.

California and Hawaii ban disposable plastic bags and a number of cities including Chicago and San Francisco and dozens of other communities prohibit them.

Elwell thinks a ban could work statewide or in other Vermont communities if Brattleboro’s process is followed as a model and businesses are given ample time to prepare for the change.

“I think that our experience shows that it can be (a) pretty smooth transition for everybody involved,” he said.

A statewide ban was introduced in the Vermont Legislature last year but it didn’t make it out of committee.

State Rep. Michael Mrowicki, a Democrat from Putney, has introduced a bill that would ban the bags statewide.

“We’ve done without them before we can do without them now the damage they do to the environment to wildlife just isn’t worth it,” he told MyNBC.com.

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