Alabama Senate Pushes Legislation to Stop Plastic Bag Bans

Plastic Bag
A trash bin near State Street in downtown Boston contains a plastic bag wrapping a paper one on Nov. 15, 2018. Alabama votes to advance legislation to prohibit bans on plastic bags. David L. Ryan/Getty Images

The Alabama Senate's Governmental Affairs Committee has voted to advance legislation to stop cities in the state banning plastic grocery bags.

According to a report by WKRG, on Tuesday the committee voted 9-2 to send the bill to the Senate floor. The bill, by Republican Senator Steve Livingston of Scottsboro, would stop local governments in Alabama from banning the use of plastic bags, foam cups and other single-use bags and containers. Furthermore, it would stop fees being charged to customers for the use of single-use containers.

This policy is controversial; a U.N. report says packaging accounts for about half of the plastic waste in the world. The U.S. is one of the world's largest producers of plastic packaging waste per capita.

"If current consumption patterns and waste management practices continue, then by 2050 there will be around 12 billion tonnes of plastic litter in landfills and the environment," says the report, "Single-Use Plastics – A Roadmap for Sustainability."

"Most plastics do not biodegrade. Instead, they slowly break down into smaller fragments known as microplastics. Studies suggest that plastic bags and containers made of expanded polystyrene foam (commonly referred to as 'Styrofoam') can take up to thousands of years to decompose, contaminating soil and water," the report says.

Tammy Herrington, executive Director of Conservation Alabama, said: "It was disappointing to see the Senate committee take the side of out-of-state industry groups over their constituents. Alabamians want to be able to solve plastic waste problems in their community, not have their local authority undermined by the state legislature. We'll keep working with our partners, city governments, and the voters to stop this bill."

In August 2014, California became the first state to enact legislation imposing a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at large retail stores, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures' website. The bill required a 10 cent minimum charge for recycled paper bags, reusable plastic bags and compostable bags at certain locations. Hawaii and New York followed suit.

Alabama is not the first state to make a move in the opposite direction. The Arizona Legislature is not letting local governments ban plastic bags.

However, Kroger, owner of Fry's Food Stores in Arizona, is looking to phase out plastic bags by 2025. According to Arizona PBS, the plastic bag phaseout is part of the Zero Hunger, Zero Waste initiative at Kroger, which is the largest grocer nationwide and the market-share leader in Arizona. The grocer is aiming to produce zero waste by 2020 and is trying to minimize food waste by 2025.

This article was updated with comment from Tammy Herrington, executive Director of Conservation Alabama.