Connecticut takes steps to reduce plastic waste, bans single-use plastic grocery bags

Press Release



Kyleigh Hillerud, CONNPIRG Stateboard Chair,  [email protected]

Petra Favorite, CONNPIRG Campus Organizer, [email protected]

Justin Landry, CONNPIRG Campus Organizer, [email protected]

Hartford – It’s no secret that plastic pollution is littering our oceans. Public consciousness about the prevalence of plastic has heightened in recent years and is causing individuals to use their own metal straws, reusable water bottles, and grocery bags. Some say that individual choices to be more sustainable are good, but that we need more broad-sweeping action in order to move toward a zero waste society.

College students,  including CONNPIRG Students chapters are among those calling for policy reform to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastics. 

In 2017, volunteers with the Save the Sound’s Coastal Cleanup program counted over 1,000 plastic bags among the pounds of trash they picked up along Connecticut’s shoreline, coastal marshes and beaches. 

“Nothing we use for five minutes should live on for more than 500 years,” said Jessica Gagnon, ConnPIRG Students Legislative Coordinator and UConn student, “banning plastic bags will not only help us protect our environment but also start to change the way our society views waste.” 

This shared sentiment to reduce plastic pollution is what brought CONNPIRG students from UConn Storrs and Trinity College together with multiple environmental groups in the state, including the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, League of Women Voters & The Citizens Campaign for the Environment to pass a statewide ban on single-use plastic grocery bags. The ban will go into effect June 30, 2021, with a 10 cent tax on single-use plastic bags starting August 1, 2019. 

Gagnon was among the student leaders who helped to coordinate the campaign to ban plastic grocery bags throughout the past two years. “Between collecting 3,000 petition signatures, contacting their legislators, and joining our lobby day at the statehouse, students made it clear that they stand for a zero waste future.”said Gagnon.

Students at UConn started this effort by working locally with the Solid Waste Advisory Committee on an initiative to ban single-use plastic bags by building student support and testifying at the Town Council to pass the ban in Mansfield in April that will go into effect September 12, 2019. Already, a dozen cities and towns across Connecticut have taken action to reduce or ban plastic bag use.

Simultaneously, UConnPIRG students worked with UConn Dining Services to switch from plastic to paper bags, and encourage students to bring their own bags on campus since the town-wide ban would not affect campus. The campus switch went into effect January 21, 2019. 

In Hartford, students at Trinity College spent their semester collecting petition signatures. Altogether, they collected over 500 signatures, more than a quarter of the school. Following this effort, UConn and Trinity students made a visit to the statehouse to discuss this problem directly with their legislators. 

“I am so proud of the impact that ConnPIRG has made in the last year,” said Caroline Munn, ConnPIRG Chapter Chair at Trinity College and Zero Waste Coordinator ”We collected 500 signatures from Trinity students in support of banning plastic bags to show how our generation is ready to move beyond plastic. It’s great to be a part of a student organization that is making valuable changes in our community.”

CONNPIRG Students is a statewide, student-funded and student-directed, nonpartisan group with chapters on college campuses. Combining student enthusiasm with professional staff and expertise, we run campaigns to protect the environment and public health, increase youth voter participation, and make textbooks more affordable