Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Legislators Want to Curb Local Control of Plastic Bags, Food Containers

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2019 at 9:20 AM

click to enlarge Plastic bags like these could cost you 4 cents apiece. - MAYA SMITH
  • Maya Smith
  • Plastic bags like these could cost you 4 cents apiece.

The Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club is seeking signatures to help stop bills in the Tennessee General Assembly that would ban cities’ abilities to put any restrictions on plastic bags and single-use containers.

The House version of the bill passed on the floor in that chamber Monday. The Senate bill is slated to be heard Tuesday in the Commerce and Labor committee.

The bill ”prohibits a local government from adopting or enforcing a resolution, ordinance, policy, or regulation that:

• regulates the use, disposition, or sale of an auxiliary container

• prohibits or restricts an auxiliary container or

• Enacts a fee, charge, or tax on an auxiliary container."

“This [bill] provides that this state is the exclusive regulator of food and drink sellers, vendors, vending machine operators, food establishments, and food service establishments in this state,” reads the bill. “This [bill] prohibits a local government from imposing a tax, fee, or otherwise regulating the wholesale or retail sale, manufacture, or distribution of any food or drink, food or drink content, amount of food or drink content, or food or drink ingredients…”

The Sierra Club called the bill “horrible legislation” and said it “would take away local communities ability to enact any restrictions or fees on single use containers, bags or eating implements (straws).”
“Single use plastics clog our stormwater systems, pollute our waterways, kill wildlife, and eventually result in microplastics in our water supplies,” reads the Sierra Club website. “Local communities know best how to handle their unique challenges with single use plastics and unless the state wants to enacted a ban across Tennessee, the General Assembly should stay out of their way.”

As of Tuesday morning, the club’s petition had 700 of the 1,000 signatures the club is seeking.

The Memphis City Council paused a vote on a new, local fee on plastic bags earlier this month as the state legislation made its ways through the Assembly.

The fee here is meant to curb plastic bag usage to reduce litter, especially in the city’s waterways, according to council member Berlin Boyd, who sponsored the resolution here.

The fee was initially 7 cents per bag but was lowered to 4 cents. If approved, it would take effect January 2020.

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