Michigan Issues Statewide Prohibition on Local Plastic Bag Bans

Published February 1, 2017

The State of Michigan now has a law prohibiting local governments from banning, regulating, or imposing fees on the use of plastic bags and other containers.

In effect, the new policy is a ban on bag bans.

The law, finalized in December 2016, prohibits local ordinances from “regulating the use, disposition, or sale of, prohibiting or restricting, or imposing any fee, charge, or tax on certain containers,” including plastic bags, cups, bottles, and other forms of packaging.

Strengthening Consumer Choice

Pamela Villarreal, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) who has written extensively on the impact of plastic bag bans, says this legislation is important.

“So many cities and states are looking at all-out bans on plastic bags, but many people view this as particularly extreme when you consider the fact there are other solid waste items taking up so much more landfill space than a plastic bag does,” said Villarreal. “I think it’s really significant a state has the courage to actually put in place a statewide ban.

“Many might argue it takes away local choice, but really it’s the bag bans taking away local choice,” said Villarreal. “Having a ban on bag bans allows customers to have more choices.”

The State of California and numerous localities across the nation have imposed plastic bag bans in recent years, saying they are intended to reduce litter and solid waste. Research by Villarreal and others at NCPA shows plastic bags make up less than 1 percent of all litter and solid waste in landfills, and alternatives to plastic bags cost the public more, use more energy to construct, and impose their own negative environmental impacts, Villarreal says.

‘Simple Economics’

Dallas, Texas imposed a bag ban for about six months in 2015, but the city rescinded it in response to confusion over compliance and complaints about the costs imposed on low-income residents, Villarreal says.

“Many stores didn’t comply with the ban, and I think there was just a lot of confusion around it,” said Villarreal. “Also, there were some lower-income areas represented by city council members who came out and voted against the bag ban, so I think it was having a negative impact on the lower-income areas where the residents would have to pay for alternative bags.

“In the end, I think it was simple economics why the city repealed its bag ban,” Villarreal said.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.