Why We Need a National Plastic Bag Ban


Let me give you the back story on how this article came to be. I wanted to create a simple chart to show what states have plastic bag bans, and which ones don’t. But the more I researched the more I realized how complicated this was going to be. First of all, not all plastic bans are created the same. Some states have a full on single-use plastic ban. Some have a ban on plastic bags under a certain thickness (and not all those states use the same thickness). Then you have to consider the states that have preemptive laws about plastic bags. What is a preemptive law? It is basically a law that allows higher government (in this case, at state level) to limit or eliminate the ability of a lower government (like city and counties) to regulate on a specific issue. This means, like in Florida, that the state can pass preemptive laws on lots of plastic products and then local counties or cities within that state can’t pass a local law that bans said plastics. A look at the numbers 17.65% states (including DC) have statewide plastic bans 25.49% states (including DC) have plastic bag bans in at least one local area but are NOT preemptive laws 37.25% states (including DC) have preemptive plastic bag laws 19.61% states (including DC) have no laws on plastic bags Confusing requirements As previously mentioned, not all bag bans are the same. For example, in California plastic bags less than 2.25 mils are banned while in Maine bags under 4.0 mils are banned. Furthermore, in states like New York, they ban all plastic carryout bags made from plastic film no matter the thickness of the bag. Some states also require a fee for using compostable plastic or paper bags. But again, they are not all the same. They can be 5 cents, 10 cents or whatever that state or area passes. Some states, like Washington state, apply these bans to retailers only, while states like Vermont apply it to retailers and restaurants. It's for these reasons that we need a national plastic bag ban. Imagine having a business that is in two cities, counties, or states that have different bag laws. This can cause small businesses more work making sure they are in line with each set of plastic bag laws. Plus, by banning them, small businesses can save money that would normally go toward keeping them in stock. What about low-income families? This is a common question brought up by those against plastic bag bans. And I’ll admit, it is a completely valid question. But just look at Fairfax County, Virginia as a great example of addressing this issue. Recently I was chatting with Lee District Supervisor, Mr. Rodney Lusk, and he stated that they collect reusable bags that are given out during events so people can avoid paying a tax on disposable alternatives to plastic AND avoid paying for reusable bags. This is a simple and easy step community members can take to help their neighbors. Where does your state stand on plastic bags?