States Ban the Bag: Vermont Escalated Things Quickly

Autumn scene of lakeside in Vermont with marketing message: The green mountain state goes green

The Green Mountain State Goes Green

Vermont was the fourteenth state to join the U.S., and the fourth state to pass a state-wide ban on single-use plastic bags. For a state known for environmental initiatives and striving to have a positive impact on the planet, Vermont largely stayed out of the bag ban movement. All that changed in a very big way when Vermont recently passed their state-wide bag ban. As part of our #StatesBanTheBag series, we take a look at the bag ban movement in Vermont.


Vermont’s governor, Phil Scott, signed their state-wide bag ban into law on June 18, 2019. Coincidently, this was the same day a single-use plastic bag ban was passed in nearby Maine. However, the similarities with Maine end with the date the law was approved. Vermont’s single-use plastic bag ban will go into effect in July of 2020. Vermont also holds the distinction of passing a very comprehensive ban which extends beyond single-use plastic bags.

Details of the Ban

Many municipalities that have banned bags have experienced an unintended consequence. With thin plastic bags banned, sometimes retailers switch to handing out slightly thicker plastic bags that are allowed under the ban. These thicker bags are seldom reused and continue to contribute to the litter problem. To prevent this from happening in Vermont, officials added unique language to their ban.

The state-wide ban in the Green Mountain State prohibits bags that do not have stitched handles, this effectively bans all single-use plastic bags. The ban applies to both retailers and restaurants and is intended to encourage the use of reusable bags made from cloth or polypropylene. Paper bags will be available for a 10-cent fee, however, the fee does not apply to small paper bags.

Prohibiting Single-Use Plastic Items

Single-use plastic bags largely contribute to the litter problem, but there are a variety of other common items that end up as litter or congest landfills. In addition to single-use plastic bags, Vermont’s ban also prohibits plastic drink stirrers and straws, as well as takeout containers and cups made from foam, or expanded polystyrene. Businesses can provide straws upon request for customers with medical conditions.

New to the Movement

The single-use plastic bag ban movement is still relatively new to the U.S. California really started the bag ban movement as we know it in 2007 and never looked back. Although, it took 11 years before California approved a state-wide ban. In New York, eight years passed between the approval of the first ban in Southampton and approval of the statewide bag ban.

The bag ban movement first got underway in Vermont when Brattleboro residents voted in favor of a ban in 2017. That ban went into action on July 1, 2018. However, some Vermont legislators began proposing a state-wide ban in early 2017, before Brattleboro’s ban became effective. These early efforts to ban single-use plastic bags or impose a fee on bags failed to pass. Although, it wasn’t long before a state-wide ban became a reality.

Bans at the State Level

Vermont took a serious stance regarding single-use plastic with the approval of their state-wide ban. Another New England state owns the distinction of being the fourth state to ban single-use plastic bags. Find out which one in the next installment of #StatesBanTheBag. This series provides an in-depth look at the backstory and details of each statewide bag ban.

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