Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Memphis Could Outright Ban Plastic Bags

Posted By on Wed, Jun 19, 2019 at 12:01 PM

click to enlarge plastic-bags-2.jpg

Plastic bags at retail stores could soon be a thing of the past here, as the Memphis City Council is looking to ban retail stores’ distribution of plastic bags to customers at checkouts.

The ban would prohibit the distribution of single-use plastic bags at checkouts in retail establishments with 2,000 square feet or more. Back in November, councilman Berlin Boyd first proposed a seven-cent fee on plastic bags that shoppers take from retail stores. He then reduced the proposed fee to five cents earlier this year.

Votes on the ordinance were held several times after a new Tennessee law was signed by Gov. Bill Lee in April. The law bans local governments from regulating the “use, disposition, or sale of an auxiliary container.”

Now, the council is waiting for a legal opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General’s office on whether or not Memphis’ amended ordinance would violate the law.

The council will return to the issue at its July 2nd meeting.

If passed, each violation of the ordinance would result in a $50 fine.

According to the draft of the ordinance, sponsored by Boyd and Chairman Kemp Conrad, plastic bags place a cost burden on municipal trash and recycling operations, citing that only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled.

The ordinance also states that the measure is meant to ensure “sustainable stewardship of the city’s environmental treasures, and a responsibility to prevent plastic bags from polluting and clogging our waterways and endangering wildlife and the broader ecosystem.”

If the council passes the measure, exceptions to the ban would include newspaper bags, dry cleaning and garment bags, bags provided by pharmacists, and take-out bags from restaurants.

The ban would also not include bags used to package loose items such as produce or candy.

If approved, the ban would take effect in January 2021.

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