These 6 States Want to Ban Plastic Bag Bans (Yes, You Read That Right)
Plastic bags—those non-biodegradable menaces that clog up our drawers, waterways and roadways alike—have been public enemy No. 1 in many cities and even entire states which have legislated bans on these single-use pesks. But now, a growing number of pro-plastic states are spearheading bans on bag bans.
Multiple states are considering laws that will block local plastic bag bans. Photo credit: Flickr
As Plastic News reported, it all started last April when Gov. Douglas Ducey (R) signed into law a measure that would stop any local government from putting any restrictions on plastic bags, bottles, foam containers, cans and boxes. State lawmakers who wanted to stop the bans argued that "excessive regulation" on bags and other disposable containers would stifle economic growth. Ducey also signed another bill that would give state legislators the right to ask the attorney general's office to investigate a local policy that is acting contrary to the state law.
A bill that would have prevented cities from banning the use of plastic grocery bags passed in the House but was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon (D) in July. Rep. Dan Shaul (R), who sponsored the bill, had strongly opposed plastic bag bans, such as the one being considered in the city of Columbia.
“There are things that local municipalities can do to benefit their communities,” Shaul said in September. “There’s a whole list of things that fit in that, but I don’t think prohibiting retailers from using a plastic bag is anything anyone should be restricting. It gives ultimate local control to their consumers.”
While no cities in the state currently enforce plastic bag bans, that detail did not stop the Senate from voting to make it illegal for local governments to impose bag bans without getting state approval first. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) is expected to sign the bill into law any day now. According to Plastic News, Idaho is home to a major plastic film and bag factory.
Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a new state law this week that prohibits city and county officials from taxing or restricting the use of disposable plastic bags by grocery stores and other retailers, the Associated Press reported. The measure, which immediately takes effect, will stop cities such as Bloomington from considering bag restrictions.
The Indiana ban on plastic bag restrictions is needless state meddling in local control. #Disappointed @GovPenceIN https://t.co/0LmiVFnY63— Julia Spangler (@Julia Spangler)1458905803.0
The state is another step closer to entirely blocking bag bans after the State Assembly "easily approved" a bill that "would strip communities of the right to ban the bags" earlier this month, MPR reported. Like Idaho, the move to pre-empt plastic bag bans comes despite the absence of such bans in any city across the state.
A bill from Sen. Jani Iwamoto (D) called for a state-wide 10-cent fee on single-use paper and plastic bags but the state legislature wrapped up its 2016 session without voting on the bill, according to Plastic News. However, another version is expected to return next year.
Meanwhile, the two states that have actually passed plastic bags bans are facing hurdles. California banned plastic bags outright in 2015, but opponents of the ban have qualified a referendum on the law, which will be decided this November by voters.
Hawaii also has a ban on plastic bags but certain loopholes have allowed the distribution of "reusable" bags—which are just thicker plastic bags—that could actually be worse for the environment.
Students spend their spring break trying to save California's plastic bag ban https://t.co/NxBGRJQfRc https://t.co/DtNlJw4P0h— #NBC7 San Diego (@#NBC7 San Diego)1458978435.0
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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