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Iowa Prohibits Local Bans on Plastic Bags

Iowa has joined the growing list of states that prohibit their municipalities and counties from banning or restricting single-use plastic bags. Signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad late last month, the legislation is the latest in a growing number of state-level pushbacks against bag bans, which have been on the rise nationally and around the world. Restrictions on plastic bags are relevant to the promotional products industry because they can help foster sales of branded reusable bags, such as totes.

In addition to Iowa, states such as Arizona, Michigan and Missouri have passed laws that prohibit local governments from restricting plastic bags. Earlier this year, the South Carolina legislature narrowly rejected a statewide ban on bag bans. Meanwhile, legislators have recently pressed forward with similar efforts to adopt legislation barring ban bags in Minnesota, Texas and North Carolina.

Single-use plastic bags can be the source of significant pollution. They congest landfills, litter public spaces and private properties, and can kill fish and other wildlife. That’s why, over the last decade or so, a growing number of communities around the world have clamped down on them. Kenya, Ethiopia, China and Bangladesh are among the countries with bag restrictions, while Ireland, Wales and Denmark have taxed or imposed fees on the disposable carriers, thereby reducing their use. Stateside, California and Hawaii have enacted bag-ban laws, while some 200 U.S. municipalities have legislation in effect that prohibits or restricts one-time use containers.

Still, grocers, retailers and pro-business lobbies have opposed the bans, saying they create a complicated patchwork of regulatory hurdles, while also burdening consumers and businesses with unnecessary increased costs. They also say that outlawing bag bans protects businesses from overregulation. Meanwhile, groups like Progressive Bag Affiliates have been part of an increasingly organized effort to counteract bag restrictions with “bans of bag bans,” according to the Center for Media and Democracy.

In Iowa, Branstad signed the legislation prohibiting local governments from banning plastic bags as residents in Iowa City, Dubuque and Marshall County were looking into outlawing single-use plastic bags. “We were so close,” Ann Christenson, who was part of a group working toward an Iowa City bag ban, told The Des Moines Register. “The (city council members) were ready to go. … I think Coralville and North Liberty would have eventually followed suit.”