The Honorable Clyde Carson, Chair
House Municipal and County Government Committee
Legislative Office Building, Room 301
Concord, NH 03301
Re: HB 102 An act relative to municipal ordinances regarding the use of plastics.
HB 559 An act enabling municipalities to ban single-use sources of plastic pollution
Dear Chair Carson and Members of the Committee:
Connecticut River Conservancy appreciates the opportunity to comment on House Bill 102 which allows towns to pass ordinances regarding the use and distribution of plastics and HB 559 which enables municipalities to ban single-use sources of plastic pollution. Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC) supports both of these bills.
CRC and our members have been working to protect the Connecticut River and its tributaries from the source at the Canadian border to the sea for the past 65 years. For 23 of those years, we have organized the largest river cleanup on the east coast. Each year CRC volunteers go out at the end of September to pick trash out of our waterways and over and over again, plastic is the item most frequently found. Our annual event gives us proof every year that plastic pollution is everywhere in our environment. In 2018 alone our volunteers picked up 48 tons of trash. We’ve cleaned up over 1,000 tons of garbage since this annual event began, including a great deal of single-use plastics.
Overwrap packaging, drinking straws, grocery bags, polystyrene food packaging – these single-use plastics, often with an average lifespan of minutes, become pollution that fester in our waterways, landfills, and environment for up to 1,000 years. We now understand that they break up into microplastics which build up in the food chain after larger predators consume smaller marine life. These tiny pieces of plastic are finding their way into our bodies. Additives in plastics have been associated with human and aquatic species health risks. Plastics have a high sorption capacity and may accumulate persistent organic pollutants like pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Clearly this pervasive plastic pollution is one of the “other such substances that [has] become a nuisance” in our environment and should be included explicitly in the definition of “refuse” as defined in RSA 149-M:4.
Municipalities bear a great deal of the financial burden for waste removal in our communities. Individual towns should have oversight regarding the sources of waste in their communities and weigh those sources against the cost of trash disposal. This is particularly important due to China’s new import restrictions on our plastic waste. The cost of plastic waste is beginning to outweigh its usefulness.
While a state-wide ban would be more efficient and effective, and would likely be more palatable and functional for grocery store chains, taking the first step and allowing for our local communities to make these decisions for themselves is the right thing to do from an environmental and economic point of view.
Towns all over New England are banning single-use plastic bags and citizens are transitioning easily to functioning without them. As an example, the town of Brattleboro, VT passed a ban in 2017 that went into effect in July of 2018.[i] There has been no controversy resulting from this ban. The local business community is on board and the transition was a non-issue for the townspeople. The local grocery stores have provided paper bags for a modest fee of 10 cents and encourage the use of and sell reusable bags.
The plastics manufacturing companies are trying to scare our communities into thinking that we somehow “need” the wasteful convenience of single-use plastics. This is bunk. Anyone over 45 can remember the time when these single-use plastics did not exist and we brought our groceries home in paper bags. Part of the ethos of our New England history is built on our thrifty nature of reducing waste and reusing wisely the resources that we already have. I’m not sure when or why it became fashionable to live in a throw-away society, but the arrogance of that wasteful attitude flies in the face of our longstanding thrifty values. If reusable canvas and paper bags were good enough for my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, they are good enough for me!
Please support HB 102 and HB 559 to provide for local oversight of this issue. Let the NH communities decide!
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
Cc: Rep. Bartlett; Rep. Martin; Rep. Von Plinsky; Rep. J. Schmidt; Rep. Spang; Rep. Gilman; Rep. Luneau; Sen. Fuller Clark
[i] See: https://vtdigger.org/2018/07/04/brattleboro-adapts-to-plastic-bag-ordinance/ and https://www.reformer.com/stories/bag-ban-smooth-and-successful,552805