State lawmakers will try again to pass restrictions on single-use plastic items in the coming legislative session.
The House last year approved a bill saying plastic straws should only be given out on request. But state Senators of both parties agreed to block the measure.
They argued it wasn’t needed -- that public opinion in the state was already turning against excessive plastic use.
Representative Lee Oxenham, a Democrat from Plainfield, disagrees. She thinks the state needs to act.
“We are not being cognizant of the threat to our planet and to our public health if we do not take action to curtail the use of these minimally useful artifacts that are killing the planet,” Oxenham says.
Oxenham is co-sponsoring a new bill to put a 5-cent fee on plastic bags and cups.
She hopes it would help people make reusable bags and cups a habit, which would cut down on plastic waste and pollution.
"It's that sufficient nudge that it raises it to the conscious level,” she says, “so that when you're walking out of the car towards the store, you say ‘oops, better take those bags with me’ instead of leaving them behind the seat."
Oxenham says plastic waste is a climate change issue. Those bags and cups are made from fossil fuels and often end up landfills, which contribute to emissions.
Other legislators have bills to explicitly enable municipalities to pass their own plastics restrictions.
Portsmouth appears to be the only community in the state to have officially taken that step so far. The city will institute a ban on distribution of Styrofoam containers at most businesses beginning in 2021. City officials there moved forward even without the enabling leglislation. Oxenham and others say other cities and towns could follow suit with more clear guidance from the state.