SEATTLE (Scrap Monster): Michigan has passed a law that prevents local governments from imposing bans on plastic bags or placing fees on disposable containers. The bill was signed into law last Wednesday by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, in the absence of Governor Rick Snyder. The bill is considered to be a big blow to environmental activists. The law will go into effect after 90 days from the date of signing.
The Senate bill SB 853, sponsored by Senator Jim Stamas was earlier passed by the House in a 62-46 vote and also by the Senate by 25-12. The bill was opposed by Rep. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor, obviously due to the fact that Washtenaw County which includes Ann Arbor is on the verge of introducing $0.10 charge on paper and plastic grocery take out bags starting 2017. The law has come as a setback for Ann Arbor and many other local governing bodies that has been pursuing to impose charges on checkout bags. It must be noted that no local units of government in the state have current ordinances on this issue.
Meantime, the Michigan Restaurant Association (MRA), which represents approximately 4,500 Michigan foodservice establishments, welcomed the signing of the bill. The MRA press release noted that the legislation would help prevent local units of government from enacting additional burden on businesses that use plastic bags or other commonly used containers. The signing of the bill into law will avoid complexities related to day-to-day business operations of its members, MRA added. A number of local units of government across the state have taken action to implement additional taxes and fees on businesses that use plastic bags, auxiliary containers such as Styrofoam cups and cardboard boxes. Incidentally, MRA was part of a large coalition which had led the campaign, pushing for passage of the bill.
The bill prohibits a local unit of government from adopting or enforcing an ordinance that regulated the use, disposition auxiliary containers. No local unit would be able to adopt any ordinance that prohibits or restricts the use of auxiliary containers. Further, it prevents imposition of fees, charge or tax on auxiliary containers.
The bill specifies that the proposed act could not be construed to prohibit or restrict recycling programs or locations. The law will not affect curbside recycling programs, designated residential or commercial recycling locations or commercial recycling programs. The new act created by the bill would not apply to an ordinance that prohibited littering or the use of auxiliary containers on property owned by a county, township, city or village.
Also, auxiliary container mentioned in the bill refers to any bag, cup, bottle, or other packaging, whether reusable or single-use, made of cloth, paper, plastic, cardboard, corrugated materials, aluminum, glass, postconsumer recycled material, or similar material or substrates, including coated, laminated, or multilayer substrates and is designed for transporting, consuming, or protecting merchandise, food, or beverages from or at a food service or retail facility.
Through passage of the bill, Michigan has joined other states such as Wisconsin, Idaho, Florida, and Arizona in encouraging the use of disposable plastic bags.