The following was written in the wake of the City of Albuquerque’s adoption of a plastic bag ban, but with Bernalillo County now considering such a ban remains quite relevant.
The Albuquerque City Council’s recent decision to ban plastic grocery bags is a textbook example of politicians rushing to pass “feel good” laws rather than pursuing rational, evidence-based solutions to the city’s challenges. In a rush to satisfy activists who want to see New Mexico become the next California, city council members not only ignored strong
Ordinance #O-19-48—which goes by the misnomer “Clean and Green Retail Ordinance,” makes it illegal for businesses to give out a “single-use” plastic bag. However, nowhere in the bill is a “single-use” bag defined, a major oversight that is bound to create an atmosphere of confusion for small business owners throughout Albuquerque.
The ordinance, which was passed along party lines, also “authorizes” businesses to charge a up to a 10-cent fee for a paper bag. This is beyond silly because businesses in New Mexico have always had the ability to charge for bags if they thought it was worthwhile. This can only be considered a thinly-veiled attempt by the city council to pass the cost of their new policy onto consumers while avoiding
Families will be forced to pay more at the checkout aisle, but instead of benefiting schools or recycling programs, the proceeds of this 10-cent fee will go straight to pad the bottom line of giant grocery store
It is also unclear how the city will enforce this new poorly-defined
But the inconsistent, contradictory and unenforceable nature of the city council’s new ordinance is not the only problem. The very premise the ordinance is based on is false. Banning plastic grocery bags because they are “single use” ignores the fact that over 90% of Americans reuse their plastic bags at least once, usually as a trashcan liner or to carry household items like a packed lunch. Additionally, alternatives to plastic bags are more environmentally costly and have a greater impact on the environment. Don’t take my word for it—this is fact is made clear by the very study commissioned by the city council which found a ban would actually increase the amount of material headed to the landfill and “plastic production and disposal overall results in less greenhouse gas emissions, energy, water and fertilizer inputs than the paper, aluminum, cotton or glass alternatives.”
So if the city council’s plastic bag ban is ill-defined, unenforceable and ineffective in reducing
It’s worth noting that not every city council member voted for this ridiculous policy, which if passed in its original form would have also increased costs for businesses even more by banning straws and polystyrene food containers. Republican council members Don Harris, Trudy Jones and Brad Winter should be applauded for standing up for common sense and warning against policies that will further squeeze businesses in the city. Instead of forcing flawed legislation
Is that too much to ask?