CITIZEN VOICES® Let towns ban plastic?
Feb 01, 2019
This year, your representatives will consider legislation allowing New Hampshire towns to ban disposable plastics. These include plastic shopping bags, straws, drink lids, and various other single-use plastic products that are often distributed to consumers.
How do plastic bans work?
Several major cities across America have adopted single-use plastic bans in recent years, including Boston, MA. Customers at grocery stores and restaurants receive their purchased goods in paper bags or compostable plastic bags. Usually, customers have the option to bring their own reusable bags instead.
Boston’s ordinance allows businesses to apply for a temporary exemption if making this switch immediately would prove an unreasonable hardship. Boston has also made exceptions to the ordinance; plastic dry-cleaning bags and newspaper bags will still be allowed, for example.
Several bills to consider
There are multiple bills up for debate related to municipal plastic bans. These include HB 102 and HB 559. Rep. Judith Spang has also proposed a statewide restriction on plastic straws that would prohibit restaurants from giving them out unless customers specifically requested them.
Why can’t towns ban single-use plastic already?
New Hampshire is not a “home rule” state. In other words, towns and cities may only pass ordinances regarding issues the state grants municipalities authority over. Under current state law, towns and cities do not have authority to ban plastic products. HB 102 and HB 559 would not automatically ban disposable plastics – it would simply give towns the ability to do so, if they chose.
Pros and Cons
Those in favor of allowing municipalities to ban plastic say that communities should have the right to decide this issue for themselves. Many are bothered by the plastic pollution caused by these disposable products – a single plastic shopping bag that is used once can take up to 1000 years to decompose in a landfill.
Opponents say that this legislation could hurt businesses in New Hampshire that rely on inexpensive plastic bags and containers. They point out that, in many cases, the cost of such changes would likely be passed on to consumers. Lawmakers shouldn’t pass laws that make New Hampshire businesses less competitive, they say.