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Michigan law bans local governments from banning plastic bags

In the absence of Governor Rick Snyder — who was spending the holidays out of state — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed the bill into law on Wednesday last week, reports the Consumerist.

Senate Bill 0853 (2016) was introduced in March by Senator Jim Stamas. The legislation passed both the Republican-held House and Senate along party lines.

The law, which goes into effect 90 days after it was signed, primarily affects Washtenaw County, home to Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and the University of Michigan. The county planned to start enforcing a $0.10 charge on paper and plastic grocery bags in 2017.

Michigan has now joined with Wisconsin, Idaho, Florida and Arizona in encouraging the use of disposable plastic bags, even though California and cities like Portland, Seattle, Austin and Chicago have banned them. And in September, France became the first country to ban plastic silverware, plates, and cups.

It should be noted that the legislation specifically states that the law does not affect curbside recycling programs, designated residential or commercial recycling locations or commercial recycling programs. In other words, the state wants its residents to use plastic bags and containers, and they hope people will have enough sense to dispose of them properly.

The law was hailed as a victory by the Michigan Restaurant Association which believes the use of local bans creates an unnecessary financial and logistics burden on restaurant chains and other retailers.

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“With many of our members owning and operating locations across the state, preventing a patchwork approach of additional regulations is imperative to avoid added complexities as it related to day-to-day business operations,” Robert O’Meara, the association’s vice president of Government Affairs was quoted as saying by EcoWatch.

Inhabitat questions the motives behind the legislation, saying that “money” is the one-word answer. And in October 2015, environmental advocate Laura Turner Seydel warned that outside forces are behind the bans on plastic bag bans.

“Outside interests are funding these efforts to dissuade and dismantle local level legislation. Primary among them is the Progressive Bag Affiliates, funded by the largest plastic bag manufacturers in the country and the American Chemistry Council,” Seydel wrote.

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