Last week, the Albuquerque City Council revisited the issue of banning businesses in the city from providing so-called single-use plastic bags, straws, and take-out containers, ultimately passing an amended version of the original ordinance after the Chamber and other local businesses voiced concerns. The final version of the ordinance, which passed 5-3 and was signed by Mayor Tim Keller in an Earth Day ceremony, exempts certain businesses (like laundromats and restaurants) from the plastic bag ban, and no longer bans the distributions of things like plastic straws and food containers.
Represented by J.D. Bullington, the Chamber repeated concerns raised in the initial February hearing on the issue, noting the substantial costs that would be imposed on businesses — and likely passed on to consumers — as a result of an onerous “ban” approach. There is also significant research to question the environmental rationale of such a measure, given the likelihood that consumers will – in part – switch to buying thicker plastic bags, the environmental cost of producing more paper bags is higher, and cloth bags must be reused hundreds of times for their overall environmental benefit to be realized. Also, whereas this ordinance imposes fines on businesses out of compliance with the ban on plastic bags, other cities and states have seen success in reducing use of plastic bags and increasing reuse and recycling through voluntary programs.
The city released an economic impact report shortly before the hearing that indicated that the cost to a family of four could be as high as $150 per year, and the Solid Waste Department noted that while the ban could remove more than 100 million plastic bags from landfills and litter, consumers switching to paper bags could quadruple the tonnage of bags being disposed of in landfills. As mentioned, the increased use of paper bags, which weigh ten times as much as their plastic counterparts, would also increase carbon emissions in the production, transportation, and disposal of those bags.