Recently there has been a lot of discussion about state pre-emption of cities’ and counties’ ability to create rules and ordinances concerning the banning or restricting of auxiliary containers. As stated in the legislation (HB 372), “auxiliary container” means reusable bags, disposable bags, boxes, cups and bottles that are made of cloth, paper, plastic, extruded polystyrene or similar materials and are designed for one-time use or for transporting merchandise or food.
This legislation was brought as a business-friendly bill, not as an affront to local governments. Some of the issues for businesses include bearing the brunt of plastic bag legislation, which forces businesses to comply with additional government regulations that mandate counting and maintaining records, or they face fines and penalties.
Following Seattle’s ban on plastic bags, nearly 40 percent of surveyed store owners reported seeing their costs for carryout bags increase between 40 percent and 200 percent because they had to switch to providing more costly alternatives.
More than 24,600 American manufacturing jobs in 344 facilities across the country — including 200 jobs in Idaho — are threatened by proposed ordinances to ban and tax plastic bags. The plastics industry contributes over $29 million to the economy of the state.
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Consumers are also impacted by these bans. Given that plastic bag alternatives are more expensive for stores to purchase and provide to shoppers, retailers would have no choice but to pass on these increased costs to customers through higher prices at the checkout counter.
In a Reason-Rupe poll, when asked whether the government should determine the types of bags available at grocery stores and other retailers or if these choices should be left to individual consumers and the stores where they shop, 82 percent of respondents said they believed the choice should be left to individuals and stores.
It should be pointed out and be clear, this legislation in no way restricts consumers or businesses from their personal choice in containers.
What about the environment?
American-made plastic bags are 100 percent recyclable, reusable and made using a byproduct of natural gas, not foreign oil.
Plastic bags are not “single-use” products; 9 out of 10 Americans report reusing them as trash-can liners, lunch bags and pet waste bags, among other uses.
Plastic bags make up just 0.4 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream, so banning them won’t effectively reduce the amount of solid waste in landfills.
Plastic bag bans inadvertently promote alternative bagging options that are in fact worse for the environment. The standard “reusable” bag is a petroleum-based product made from nonwoven polypropylene (NWPP) and is not recyclable; 95.5 percent of NWPP bags end up in landfills. Consumers are encouraged to deposit their used plastic bags and wrap into bins at local stores for recycling. There are over 30,000 of these retailer drop-off points throughout the country, including at Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and Target across Idaho.
The Connecticut Food Association has created the “Bring Your Own Bag CT” campaign, which encourages consumers to use reusable bags, offers a 5-cent-per-bag reward for reusing checkout bags, and made plastic bag recycling bins available at store entryways. Their motto of “reduce, reuse and recycle,” not eliminate, is the best course of action.
Clark Kauffman is Idaho representative for District 25, a Filer farmer and a businessman.
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