Frequently Asked Questions


Why reduce single use bags?

 Any bag (paper or plastic) if used only once can create unnecessary waste which results in costly waste management, costly recycling or costly clean ups. 

Why reduce single use plastic bags in particular?

Plastic bags in particular: 

-  are used for an average of 12 minutes.

-  can last in the environment from 200 to 1000 years

-  only 1% of plastic bags are returned to stores for recycling.

-  can pollute oceans and entangle & kill marine life 

- can degrade into small particles that contaminate our water and soil 

- can enter our food system by being ingested by the animals & fish we eat

- clog recycling stations 

- produce toxic ash when incinerated 

Why not switch to paper bags?

Paper checkout bags can be even more environmentally unfriendly than single use plastic bags. Manufacturing them requires trees as well as large amounts of water. It has been estimated that 14 million trees are cut down every year to make paper bags for shoppers in the U.S. It also takes a significant amount of energy to produce, distribute, and dispose of paper bags. 

Paper or Plastic: Waste Management Data

Wouldn't compostable or biodegradable bags solve the problem?

Being compostable and being composted are two different things. Compostable bags (such as those made from corn starch) only break down in an active composting process, They do not decompose in the natural environment because of lack of heat, or in landfills because of lack of oxygen. They are no better than traditional plastic bags. So, please stop leaving your dog waste along side the walking trails in those green "biodegradable" bags!

Article: Do Biodegradable bags work?   

Video on Scientific Study showing they do not biodegrade in the ocean, soil or air. 

Are reusable bags safe? Won’t they harbor germs?

As with any food handling, normal washing and hygiene practices are important. A 2010 study by Californians Against Waste shows that reusable bags have no more bacteria than other items you bring home from the store. Using common sense, washing your hands, and washing or wiping down bags when they get dirty, virtually eliminates any risk of illness. 

Fabric & Nylon bags can be washed in your laundry. Recycled plastic reusable bags can be soaked for 15 minutes in a sink with hot water and dish washing liquid. Let dry in the open air and then store in the back seat of your car (and not in your trunk).  

Why are reusable bags better for the environment?

 Reusable bags can be used many times, and thus create less landfill waste and fewer environmental impacts than other types of bags. Naturally, as with any product there are still some environmental impacts associated with their production and distribution, but reusable bags made from recycled polyethylene have a lower footprint than single-use plastic after as few as eight uses. They use 50% less energy, have 40% less impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and solid waste resources, and use 30% less water. 


Why charge a fee for Paper Bags?

 It is important to not only to remove problematic plastic bags but also to get consumers to reduce their usage of bags in general.  We don't want consumers to just switch from using plastic bags to using paper bags.   Paper bags have their own environmental problems.  Increasing their usage will just mean more paper bags to dispose, increasing solid waste disposal costs.  The 10 cent fee is important to give consumers an incentive to remember their bags and to help stores recoup the higher cost of paper bags.  It is easy to avoid the fee. Just bring your own bag.  

Can you help my Small Business be a better guardian of the Environment?

Please see our Business Support page on this site or see this list of Source Reduction ideas at our parent BYO CT organization's web site. 

But I use my plastic grocery bags for other uses, what am I to do?

Pet Owners: Read this article from the CT Post online paper. 

Bags that are used to line a small garbage pail, still contribute to unnecessary waste. Bathroom trash pails don't need to be lined and can easily be carried to larger containers to empty. 


Dog owners in hundreds of communities are saving and re-using other types of bags that typically are thrown away, such as bread bags, cereal box liners, zip lock deli bags and frozen vegetable bags. 

Cat owners can use the same, or scoop kitty litter into a handled container, made from a milk jug with an opening cut out, and reuse this repeatedly to carry waste to garbage cans. Please do not flush cat litter down the toilet - it spreads a disease called toxoplasmosis into waterways. 

Just look around - there is plenty of extra plastic in your home that you could use.

Remember - our parents didn't use plastic bags before the mid 1980's! They managed somehow. 

How effective are Plastic Bag Bans?

 Some examples:

· The City of San Jose, California saw a plastic litter reduction of approximately 89% in the storm drain system, 60% in the creeks and rivers and 59% in city streets and neighborhoods. 

· Los Angeles County's ordinance resulted in a 94% reduction in single-use bag use and the per resident economic impact was estimated to be less than $4 per year.

· Seattle found the amount of plastic bags in residential garbage declined about 50%, while commercial and self-haul waste streams within the city saw a 78% reduction.

· Hundreds of cities and towns, counties and the State of California ban single-use plastic checkout bags. Hawaii has a de facto state ban, as every county in Hawaii has passed its own prohibition.

What type of Plastic Bag ordinance is being considering?

 · BYO Madison members are currently reviewing ordinances already passed in CT and other areas of the U.S.  

· A public hearing will be held before any action is taken.

· Ordinances being reviewed restrict checkout bags used at the cash register. The following bags would NOT be banned: bags for produce, newspapers, dry cleaning, small hardware items, etc. or bags sold in packages at stores.

Does Madison have the authority to do this? What about state legislation?

Yes. CT towns have authority to enact laws concerning waste, under State Statute 7-148 

· More than a dozen CT cities and towns including Middletown, Guilford, Branford, Stamford, New Britain, Darien, Hamden, Fairfield, Westport, Greenwich, Norwalk, New Canaan, Glastonbury and more to come have already passed ordinances. Over a dozen more are considering bans now.


· The recently passed State legislation does not ban plastic bags of a thickness of under 4 mils until July 1 2021. Until then, they will be taxed $0.10 per bag. This will begin on August 1, 2019. 

· To avoid this Tax – our Town can pass a stricter ordinance that bans these plastic checkout bags after a reasonable transition period.


Are plastic bags a problem in Madison?

  · Yes. Lightweight plastic bags easily blow out of trash containers when emptied. 

· These snag in branches, get matted on the ground, can blow directly into the local rivers and streams and wash into storm drains, ending up in Long Island Sound and contributing to marine pollution.

· Every year thousands of plastic items including bags, bottles, straws and caps have been collected just along the Surf Club beach in the annual Ocean Conservancy clean up. 

Why can’t we just educate people to reuse bags or recycle?

  · Educational efforts in CT and other states have had very limited success, with only single digit increases of customers voluntarily bringing their own bag. Simply put, laws restricting single-use plastic bags work. "Hybrid laws" that also include a small fee on paper have the biggest effect of reducing waste overall and moving more people to BYO Bag.

· The truth is we are producing and using more plastic than we can recycle, and much of it ends up as litter and marine pollution. There are no facilities in CT that recycle plastic bags. Though drop-off collections at certain grocery stores exist, few customers participate.

Won’t there be a detrimental impact to local businesses?

  · This has not been an issue in other communities.  Customers have adapted easily and continue to shop at favorite stores.

· Enacting a fee kept by retailers supports local businesses as paper bags cost 5 – 8 times more than plastic. 

· Visit the BYO Madison web site ( and see the large number of local retailers already supporting our goals. 

How will this impact people who have low incomes?

 · Other towns have successfully instituted Bag Donation locations where community members can drop off and share reusable bags. This has been done at schools, community buildings and faith communities. 

· Civic groups and faith communities have held "Buy One, Give One" donation drives.

· Paper fees can also be waved for persons with S.N.A.P. and W.I.C. benefits.

· BYO Madison has held a number of free bag giveaways and will continue to provide educational and material support to our community.