The Slatest

Arizona Enters Bid for Worst State of the Week with Bag Ban Ban

Arizona Gov. Douglas Ducey must decide whether to sign the ban on bag bans.

Photo by Maury Phillips/Getty Images for Leigh Steinberg

The Arizona legislature has approved a bill that would block cities and counties from passing bans on single-use plastic bags and other disposable packaging, the New York Times reports. The sponsor of SB1241, Republican state Sen. Nancy Barto, described it as a pro-business effort to keep cities from creating “higher consumer cost” and hindering growth with “excessive regulation on containers.”

Republicans in the statehouse have argued that local bans on plastic bags and other packaging are not the answer for Arizona’s unique circumstances. Unlike crowded cities like Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. that have imposed bans or fees on bags, said state Sen. John Kavanagh, Arizona has no shortage of landfill space. Sen. Sylvia Allen of Snowflake blamed the scourge of plastic on environmental groups protesting the use of trees to make paper bags.

Only one town in Arizona—Bisbee, population 5,575—currently has a ban in place, but other municipalities have been examining their options. In an op-ed written for the Arizona Republic, three members of the Tempe, Arizona city council described an ongoing process of working with community and business leaders to “reduce waste, lower costs and divert materials from our landfills” and defended the city government’s authority to impose bans or fees to combat costly problems caused by plastic bags.

In Tempe, we use over 50 million single-use bags a year and, like the national average, less than 5 percent are properly recycled. Many of those bags are mistakenly placed in curbside bins where they damage equipment at the recycling plant.

Bags that are not recycled end up in the landfill or create litter in our parks, streets and waterways. Cleaning up all that litter creates more work for our maintenance crews and adds costs for taxpayers.

Calling local autonomy “a long-held value in Arizona” and citing positive outcomes in cities that have taken steps to ban or restrict plastic bags, the council members ended with a plea to Republican Gov. Douglas Ducey to veto the bill. Reached on Monday afternoon, a staffer said that the governor had 10 business days after the bill’s transmittal to decide and would be unlikely to comment in advance of his signature or veto.