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Michigan Bans Local Plastic Bag Bans

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Another state has officially banned plastic bag bans—yes, you read that correctly. It is now illegal for local governments in Michigan to enact ordinances that ban or place fees on plastic bags or disposable containers used by stores and restaurants.

One-time usage, plastic bags are a major cause of plastic pollution. Flickr

The bill was signed Wednesday afternoon by Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, as Gov. Rick Snyder is out of the state for the holidays.

Other states that have banned local plastic bag ordinances include Wisconsin, Idaho, Florida and Arizona.

As MLive.com noted, Michigan's new mandate affects Washtenaw County, which wanted to start charging 10 cents for paper and plastic grocery bags in 2017.

Michigan House Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, spoke against the bill on the House floor.

"This is a bill that attacks local control," he said.

Jennifer Rigterink of the Michigan Municipal League, which opposed the bill, agreed.

"So, if it's important to a community to look at plastic bags or containers and how that's affecting their community they kind of have their hands tied now and aren't able to do anything about it," Rigterink said during an interview with Michigan Radio.

Washtenaw County Commissioner Jennifer Eyer added that the law "[puts] the priorities of business over the concerns about the environment, and doing what's good for the environment."

Despite the opposition, the Republican-sponsored bill passed 52-46 in the House and 25-12 in the Senate. Both chambers are controlled by the GOP. The approved law takes effect in 90 days.

The bill was supported by the Michigan Restaurant Association, which believes that local bans creates a burdensome patchwork of bag laws for retailers.

"With many of our members owning and operating locations across the state, preventing a patchwork approach of additional regulations is imperative to avoid added complexities as it related to day-to-day business operations," Robert O'Meara, the association's vice president of Government Affairs, told MLive.com.

In a post for EcoWatch last year, environmental advocate Laura Turner Seydel warned that outside forces are behind these bans on plastic bag bans.

"Powerful and large special interest lobbying groups are behind these 'ban bans' as well as litigation aimed at already existing bans," she wrote. "Outside interests are funding these efforts to dissuade and dismantle local level legislation. Primary among them is the Progressive Bag Affiliates, funded by the largest plastic bag manufacturers in the country and the American Chemistry Council."

Turner Seydel noted in her post that Americans go through an estimated 100 billion plastic bags annually and at least 12 million barrels of oil are used per year to manufacture them. These one-time-use items are notorious for killing wildlife and polluting our environment.

Still, a number counties and even entire countries are putting their concern for the environment before their convenience and have banned these non-biodegradable menaces.

This past November, California became the first state to impose a statewide plastic bag ban despite heavy opposition from bag makers working with the American Legislative Exchange Council that tried to pass statewide bans on local bag bans.

And, in September, France became the first country to ban plastic silverware, plates and cups.

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