- The Michigan Senate approved SB 853 on Tuesday by a 25-12 vote, which would prohibit local communities from enacting any bans or fees on plastic bags, cups, bottles, or packaging.
- While no Michigan communities have passed bag ordinances, some are considering them. Lawmakers who supported the bill said they were concerned about the potential cost burden that different packaging would have on businesses.
- The bill now goes to the state's House of Representatives. If it passes there, it will be sent to Governor Rick Snyder and potentially be signed into law.
The national plastic bag debate has become a highly contentious issue, with vocal opponents on both sides. Major cities such as Washington D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco have bag ordinances, and California will vote on a statewide ban this fall. New York City recently joined the list after a long debate that resulted in the City Council's closest vote in years.
However, like Michigan, several states have recently considered prohibiting bans or fees.
The debate within Michigan shows how complex this issue can be for local governments. Senator Jim Stamas of Midland said he introduced the bill to ensure statewide consistency for retailers that might be affected by local ordinances. Mark Huizenga, mayor of Walker, agreed with this notion and said local business owners have come to him with concerns about having to spend more money on different bags. Yet officials in Washtenaw County have reported spending $200,000 per year to fix equipment at their recycling facility due to plastic bags, and cities such as Ann Arbor are considering a ban or fee.
Studies have shown that bans or fees don't necessarily mean increased costs for consumers and businesses if set up properly. Though as Austin, TX learned, education is important to ensure that reusable bags don't end up in the waste stream as well. Companies such as Novolex have facilities that can process bags and other film plastic, but the market for those materials is still evolving.