Arizona cities and towns will not be able to ban or tax plastic bags.
Governor Doug Ducey has signed Senate Bill 1241, which declares that regulation of plastic bags is a matter of statewide concern and thus not subject to regulation by local authorities.
Some states and cities around the country have implemented bans and taxes on the bags to mitigate the waste or other environmental impacts, and it's been reported recently that such bans were being explored in Arizona by the cities of Tempe and Flagstaff. Such bans will no longer be an option under the new law.
Signed by the governor Monday, SB 1241 actually prohibits bans on more than just plastic bags -- it prevents cities from making any regulations on the use of "reusable bags, disposable bags, boxes, beverage cans, bottles, cups and containers that are made out of cloth, plastic, extruded polystyrene, glass, aluminum, cardboard or other materials that are used for transporting merchandise to or from a business or multifamily housing property."
Before a final vote on the bill earlier this month, Republican Senator Steve Smith described plastic bag bans as "the absolute epitome of government run amok."
However, coalitions of cities and Democratic lawmakers said the issue really should be left up to local authorities.
Democratic Senator Steve Farley argued that it's cities that run the landfills, so they should be able to use this as an option if there is a problem.
"This is totally a matter of local control," Farley said.
Republican Senator John Kavanagh said such bans are for use in places with landfill crises, which he said isn't the case in Arizona. He also argued that any ban or tax on disposable food containers would end up costing the poor more, as they're more likely to get food in this type of packaging.
Two Democrats joined the Republican majority in the Senate to give final passage to the bill.
Bisbee is the only town in Arizona that has bag regulations. For the past year, Bisbee has had a ban on plastic bags in many retail settings, and a "reasonable fee" imposed on recycled paper bags.
The state's new law doesn't prevent cities from implementing voluntary recycling or waste-reduction programs, some of which exist now.
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For example, in Phoenix, the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance has a "Bag Central Station" program, which allows customers to put their plastic bags in a recycling receptacle at grocery stores. However, at home, you're not allowed to put plastic bags in the recycle bin, which is why some people give special scrutiny to plastic bags over other plastics.
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