UPDATE: April 24, 2019: As part of a community Earth Day celebration on April 20, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller signed into law a recently-approved proposal to ban the distribution of non-recyclable or non-biodegradable single-use plastic bags at local grocery stores, retail establishments and other businesses.
The amended legislation, which removes language that would have implemented concurrent bans on polystyrene containers and plastics straws, exempts dry cleaners and restaurants from the new law. The ordinance goes into effect on January 1, 2020.
"Our commitment to sustainability isn’t just about what we do today, or even tomorrow. It’s about living up to our responsibility to future generations of Albuquerque residents — especially our kids," Keller said in a statement. "Together we can keep hundreds of millions of non-biodegradable plastic bags out of our landfills, out of our rivers, and out of our streets, parks, and open spaces."
- Albuquerque City Council members have proposed legislation to ban a number of single-use plastics at retail establishments by January 1, 2020. If passed, the "Albuquerque Clean & Green Retail Ordinance" would prohibit the distribution of non-recyclable plastic bags, polystyrene containers and straws.
- Plastic straws would only be available by request to accommodate customers with disabilities, and paper bags only provided at the point of sale if they are deemed recyclable by the city. Retailers also would be allowed to charge customers up to 10 cents for each bag or container.
- The legislation further mandates that a public education campaign be in place at least six months before a single-use plastic ban takes effect. Businesses that violate the law would be subject to yet-to-be-determined misdemeanor penalties, and a study on the policy's effectiveness would be required by June 2022.
Single-use plastic bans have been all the rage in recent years: Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C. are among the most recent examples of cities that have passed plastic bag bans or instated a fee for customers who request a bag. Seattle became the first city to enact a straw ban last year, and California passed a law in the fall barring restaurants from providing plastic straws unless asked for by the customer. Numerous municipalities have moved to limit the use of plastic food containers; New York, for instance, recently enacted a ban on expanded polystyrene foam packaging.
Albuquerque's proposed ordinance, however, is different in tackling so many forms of plastic in one fell swoop. Up until now, governments have generally regulated individual types of products and then passed addendums or completely new ordinances when they want to add other materials.
Some cities have faced criticism for advancing material bans or "zero waste" plans without seeking adequate input from or forging partnerships with industry. The Albuquerque ordinance proposal, on the other hand, specifically lists a number of well-known companies with locations in the city that stated their commitment to reducing single-use plastic waste, noting that this ordinance would be in line with those goals. Starbucks, Hyatt, Hilton, McDonald's and Dunkin are identified as planning to end the use of polystyrene cups and containers, and/or plastic straws; grocery company Kroger is also named for its intent to abandon single-use plastic bags.
Although Albuquerque names numerous companies' plastic waste reduction goals, it's unclear if the city has reached out to any of them throughout its legislative research process. The ordinance also includes plans to develop a "Clean & Green Business Program" that recognizes compliant retailers — a sign that collaboration with covered establishments would be a priority.
Based on experiences in other cities, further questions from retailers, trade associations, MRF operators and other recycling stakeholders regarding the specific types of products covered can be expected as the legislation progresses.