Arizona has become the first state in the country to prohibit taxes or prohibitions on plastic bags and other containers.
Republican Governor Douglas Ducey on April 13 signed legislation forbidding any Arizona company from regulating the “sale, use or disposition of auxiliary containers,” including single-use plastic bags, foam containers, boxes, cans, and bottles, according to an article in Plastic News.
Other communities around the country are requiring stores to charge shoppers extra for using single-use bags, or prohibiting some types of containers altogether, as a way of cutting down on the amount of plastic waste that finds its way into the environment.
But in Arizona, the Arizona Retailers Association and the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance were among those supporting legislative efforts of state Representative Warren Petersen, a Republican, to make those kinds of controls illegal. Plastic News said the business groups “argued that plastic bag laws create a patchwork of mismatched regulations that increase costs for stores and confuse customers.”
Only one Arizona city, Bisbee, has approved a ban on single-use bags, but several other communities were considering outright bans or fees. Bisbee’s landmark rule, which went into effect on Earth Day 2014, has now been overturned.
No energy reporting, either
The bill also will prohibit local government agencies from requiring businesses to report on their energy use, The Arizona Republic reported at its website.
Phoenix had been considering a plan to require the owners of large commercial buildings to report how much energy they were using, The Republic said. “Energy benchmarking” helps save money by creating a database where building owners can compare energy consumption of similarly sized buildings in order to make changes for greater efficiency.
New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia have instituted the program, but Phoenix backed off after business owners complained, and didn’t object to the bill.
“Not disappointed, outraged,” Sandy Bahr, director of an Arizona Sierra Club chapter, told the newspaper. “It’s not a fixable bill. It takes away the ability to implement energy-saving and waste reduction measures.”
Bans are unpopular elsewhere, too
Arizona isn’t the only place where attempts to charge extra for or outlaw single-use bags has come under fire.
California had been poised to become the first state in the country to ban single-use plastic bags until a trade group gathered enough petition signatures to put the measure on a statewide ballot next year, The Huffington Post reported in February.
A group called the American Progressive Bag Alliance submitted enough signatures to force a statewide vote on overturning the ban that had been scheduled to go into effect this summer. There’s even a website called Bag the Ban devoted to stopping bag bans around the country.
In addition to prohibiting the plastic sacks, the California law also would have required grocery stores to charge at least 10 cents for each recycled paper bag or reusable bag given to shoppers. The measure was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, last September, and also included $2 million to help bag manufacturers switch over to making reusable bags.
The plastic bag industry said the ban was just a way for the California Grocers Association to make more money, but environmentalists think voters will keep the ban in place.
However it goes, the numbers are huge. In San Diego alone, roughly 500 million single-use plastic bags are handed out each year, according to a report by Equinox Center, most of which end up in the city’s landfill. The city spends $160,000 a year cleaning up plastic bag litter.