89.1 WEMU

Issues Of The Environment: The Carryout Bag Regulation Debate

Jun 1, 2016

Washtenaw County is planning to regulate the use of single use, plastic bags.  However, the Michigan State Legislature has slowed the process of passing this measure.  In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's Patrick Campion speaks with Washtenaw County Commissioner Yousef Rabhi about the controversy surrounding the proposed ordinance.

  Editor's note: Wednesday evening, the Washtenaw County commissioners  voted 6-2 to approve a new carryout bag ordinance that would put a 10-cent "tax" on customers for every single use (paper or plastic) bag they receive at stores in Washtenaw county. Stay tuned for follow-up discussion on the issue.

Overview

   *   Washtenaw County has proposed a Carryout Bag Ordinance that imposes a 10-cent fee for each disposable carryout bag, regardless of the material.  The ordinance would provide a fee exemption for people who could show they're on government welfare.

   *   The Washtenaw County Commission came to believe the bags create a solid waste problem after uncovering the fact that the plastic bags are jamming equipment at the local recycling facility, which spends $200,000 per year addressing malfunctions related to plastic bags.

   *   Senate Bill 853 passed through the state Senate on May 10 and awaits approval from the state House, and if the county does not pass the ordinance on June 1st, they may miss the chance as the bill would prohibit local ordinances from banning bags.

   *   Those opposed to the ban (and any local container bans) believe that the rules place an undue burden on retailers (particularly multi-outlet, grocery and retail stores) who may have difficulty navigating various ordinances that would pop up around the state.

   *   Those who support the ban argue that the bags are polluting the environment locally and abroad, the bags persist in the environment and release toxins, and they create an ongoing expense at recycling facilities and in the form of litter; they believe a nominal fee could provide revenue for addressing the side effects of disposable bags.

   *   Commissioner Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor and Commissioner Alicia Ping, R-Saline, have been in the lead on the issue, and they firmly hold that local communities should have the authority to enact ordinances that relate to solid waste management needs in the local community. (Michigan is considered a “Dillon Rule” state, dating to the 1850s, meaning that local government is expected to operate with a narrow scope of authority.)

Senate Bill 853

Read more about the proposed ban HERE

Like 89.1 WEMU on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

— Patrick Campion is the WEMU Program Director.  You can contact Patrick at 734.487.3363, on twitter @WEMUPC, or email him at pcampion@emich.edu.