Today was plastic bag day, as I spent several hours in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee waiting for SB 397 to come up.
SB 397, proposed by Commerce and Labor Chair Maggie Carlton, would require all retail stores to charge 10 cents per plastic bag given out until July 2011, when all non-biodegradable plastic bags would be outlawed in the State of Nevada.
Senator Carlton’s purpose for introducing the bill was to deal with all of the plastic bag litter that she has encountered. Her contention is that there is not a strong enough recycling effort for these bags and far too many of them are getting thrown away.
While there were two people that rose to speak in support of the bill, the vast majority of those who had signed in opposed it.
I followed representatives from the retail association, the petroleum marketers, and the manufacturers. So, while I had several points jotted down that I had planned to make, I ended up just echoing the comments before mine and relayed to the Committee some of the efforts the Chamber has made in regard to increasing the use of recycling.
The main points against a ban on plastic bags are as follows:
1. It is a consumer choice issue. Consumers should be able to decide what type of grocery bag they want and retailers should be able to meet the demands of their customers.
2. Paper and reusable bags are already available at most of our retailers. Those same retailers offer large bins in the front of every store in which shoppers can deposit plastic bags for recycling.
3. Over 90% of Americans reuse their plastic bags.
4. Paper bags are more expensive to produce and buy than plastic bags. They are heavier and take more trucks to deliver. They cause more pollution and greenhouse gases and take up more room in our landfills.
5. Reusable bags are much more expensive than paper or plastic and could cause health issues if not cleaned between uses. Retailers are also concerned about theft with several opaque bags being brought in and out of the store.
6. Trex, a large employer in Fernley, takes used plastic bags and makes fence and decking material out of them. They are useful and they provide jobs.
Finally, a new fee or ban on plastic bags will make every trip to the grocery store more expensive.
Not exactly the type of bill we need in the type of economic environment we have.