Single-Use Plastic Bans Divide States

By FOCUS, a Leonine Business

Since 2016, when California enacted one of the first major bans on single-use plastic bags, the movement to prohibit the use of bags and other single-use plastics has gained steam and is now beginning to reach a fever pitch in 2020 as other states push similar legislation. California’s bill, SB 270, passed the legislature in 2014 and took effect in November 2016.

Since then, seven other states have banned single-use plastic bags: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont. Additionally, over 200 counties and municipalities have enacted similar bans or fees for single-use bags.

These bans have predictably fallen mostly on party lines, with Democratic leaning states favoring the bans. A reaction to these bans also formed among midwestern and conservative leaning states, with 15 states enacting laws which prohibit municipalities from banning single use plastics, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

While many of these bans began with prohibitions on single-use plastic bags, often handed out at grocery or other shops, the goalposts have slowly moved as states have become successful in enacting statewide bans. States and municipalities are now attempting to capitalize on a global movement to ban plastic straws and single-use plastics, including plastic bottles, more broadly. Last year, the California legislature again attempted another first with AB 792, a bill that would have required most plastic containers in the state to contain 75 percent recycled content by 2035. The bill passed the legislature but was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom due to financial concerns.

Even with California’s bold piece of legislation failing, it has pushed numerous other states towards curbing their plastic use – nearly every state in session this year has introduced a bill to cut down on plastic waste or to prohibit the distribution of single-use straws or polystyrene take-out containers. The floodgates against single-use plastics have been opened, and with public opinion moving towards the side of curbing plastic use, it is only a matter of time before public policy shifts away from single-use plastics and towards recyclables and renewables.