Governor Doug Ducey has signed a bill into law that officially blocks Arizona towns, cities and counties from banning single-use plastic bags. Previously, the state’s legislature had passed the measure – Senate Bill 1241 – which also prohibits local governments from forcing businesses to report their energy usage. Reaction to the law has been mixed – particularly on social media – with proponents calling on other states to quickly follow suit and critics labeling the bill a “joke.”
While only Bisbee, AZ – population 5,360 – currently has a ban on plastic bags in the Copper State, local government leaders in Flagstaff and Tempe were considering similar measures. In fact, three Tempe city councilors recently authored an op-ed for the Arizona Republic denouncing the legislation. “This bill restricts a city’s ability to reduce waste, lower costs and divert materials from our landfills,” they wrote. “Bags that are not recycled end up in the landfill or create litter in our parks, streets and waterways. We believe this action is a step backward.”
Supporters of the law, though, argue the measure actually preempts further government overreach. “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.”
Arizona is not the only state to consider barring bag bans. The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill in March that prevents communities from imposing fees, taxes or bans on plastic bags. The legislation, sponsored by State Representative Dan Shaul, is working its way through Missouri Senate committees. “If they choose to tax the bag, it’s going to hurt the people who need that the most – the consumer,” Shaul said. “My goal when I go to the grocery store with a $100 bill is to get $100 worth of groceries.”
The legislative actions in Arizona and Missouri are still outliers. More than 100 municipalities around the U.S. have banned single-use plastic bags in recent years, promoting reusable carriers or totes instead. California was on the verge of a statewide ban, in fact, until a trade group gathered enough signatures in February to prompt an upcoming voter referendum. Starting July 1, Hawaii will have a de facto state ban, made possible through a string of individual ordinances in each county.