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Arizona Outlaws Plastic Bag Bans

Legislators in Arizona have passed a bill that would prevent towns, cities and counties in the state from banning single-use plastic bags. The measure, which still must be signed by Governor Doug Ducey, has been touted as a way to stop overregulation and strict environmental rules. Officially, Senate Bill 1241 blocks the passage of bans related to plastic bags, Styrofoam and other containers, while also prohibiting local governments from forcing businesses to report their energy usage.

“Excessive regulation on containers creates more work and cost for retailers and other businesses,” said State Senator Nancy Barto, the bill’s sponsor. “Municipalities acting on their own to implement these mandates run counter to the state’s goal to overcome Arizona’s sluggish job growth and economic stability.”

While dozens of communities in nearby California have passed plastic bag bans, only one city in Arizona – Bisbee – has a similar ordinance currently in place. The former mining town, southeast of Tucson, has enforced the ban since last April, although businesses are still allowed to provide paper carryout bags for a five-cent fee. Recently, leaders in Tempe and Flagstaff have discussed a single-use ban, but no rules have been passed.

Several large business groups have backed the new measure, including the Arizona Retailers Association. Environmentalists and some Arizona legislators, though, have criticized the bill for turning a local issue into a state-wide law. Tempe Councilwoman Lauren Kuby called the legislation “poor public policy” and Rep. Warren Petersen cited concern for economic freedom. “For me, I support individual rights and people making their own decisions,” he said.

Single-use plastic bag bans have become increasingly popular across the U.S. as local governments try to cut down on waste. Still, lobbyists for the plastics industry have worked recently, with some success, to prevent and rescind bag bans. The latest battle continues in California, where a trade group in February gathered enough signatures to prompt an upcoming voter referendum on the state’s much-publicized single-use ban.