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Westport, Connecticut, has become the first town in New England to ban the handing out of plastic shopping bags by stores, though residents are allowed to use their own plastic bags. The ban does not cover small plastic produce bags or large plastic garbage bags. It goes into effect in six months.

Merchants found to be violating the ordinance will be fined $150, and the law encourages the use of reusable bags.

The Hartford Courant reports that most stores in Westport already provide or sell reusable tote bags, and notes that “San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and the island of Maui, Hawaii, have various forms of a ban. A law setting a price on the bags in Ireland has drastically reduced their use there. China, Australia and Germany also require merchants to charge for the bags.”

KC's View:
I was talking to a New England retailer the other day who told me that plastic bag usage is down 20 percent in his stores since the introduction of canvas bags – and, perhaps more importantly, since signs were put up in the parking lot reminding people to bring their canvas bags. The impact is going right to the bottom line…so this isn’t just about environmental purity or ecological altruism.

More and more, when I bring my canvas bags into various stores, I look around and see that the people in front of me, behind me and in adjacent aisles are using canvas bags.