Michigan to Prevent Plastic Bag Bans

Michigan is the latest state to weigh in on the controversial plastic bag debate. The state is well on its way to passing legislation barring local governments from establishing fees or bans of plastic bags and other packaging containers. The move comes after Washtenaw County, home to college town Ann Arbor, passed a 10-cent fee on every plastic or paper bag carried out from grocery stores, restaurants and retail outlets.

Republican lawmakers and industry representatives who support Michigan’s effort say it’s an effort to keep the law uniform throughout the state. “Anytime you see a patchwork approach … it creates another level of complexity that we just don’t necessarily think is the government’s responsibility to be doing,” Robert O’Meara, vice president of government affairs for the Michigan Restaurant Association told the Detroit News. Democratic lawmakers and environmentalists, however, argue it’s an issue of local control. “We’re denying people at the local level to enact legislation that they believe in,” said Democratic state Rep. Jim Townsend.

Christopher Duffy, senior vice president of marketing for supplier Bag Makers (asi/37940), has been following the plastic bag issue as it travels from state to state. He explained that Michigan’s legislation helps avoid “muddying the waters” with contradictory local ordinances. “The various local regulations can differ in more than just the fee itself,” Duffy added. “They can differ in what type of retail establishment is subject to the ban, exactly what type of bag is subject to the ban and even how the collected revenues are used.”

Plastic bag bans and fees, though, indirectly benefit the promotional products industry, which can leverage them to offer reusable bag marketing solutions to their clients, Duffy said. “It’s a low-cost, high-impact strategy,” he added. Larry Stock, owner of Michigan-based In Stock Marketing Services (asi/466597), agrees that bans affect the industry: “We currently have a few clients that have repetitive orders, but nothing like some of my competitors that supply chains like Meijer and Kroger with their plastic bags.”

A Michigan House panel on Tuesday approved the ban on bag fees, paving the way for consideration by the full Republican-controlled state House. Michigan is not the only state looking to ban bag fees. Last year, Arizona passed a ban on bag bans. On the other side of the issue is California, with residents set to vote this fall on a referendum that, if approved, would ban single-use checkout bags throughout the state.