In my research on plastic bag bans around the globe, I have seen many ordinances and proposed ordinances to ban plastic bags. I have also learned that there are many cities that want to ban plastic bags but are afraid of legal ramifications against the city. This is especially true in California where many plastic bag bans have been overturned when challenged in the judicial system.
Since plastic bag bans are new to the U.S., most municipalities aren’t sure how to craft an ordinance to withstand litigation. If you read the ordinances posted here on Plastic Bag Ban Report, you’ll see that most ordinances are simply copies of other cities’ ordinances.
There is one exception: Washington, DC. The DC plastic bag fee ordinance language is very specific to a cause and a mission. Furthermore, Section 2 of the ordinance is very specific as to the “findings” of the commission. This section outlines the reasons why there is a need for a reduction in single-use plastic bags.
In California, an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) must be prepared before an ordinance can be passed. This is usually done by the city with environmentalist and attorneys. Washington, DC did their EIR with willing volunteers who physically tracked and recorded the data. This gave DC first-hand knowledge and an irrefutable data set that pointed out a specific problem within the city.
The final report was then named the “Anacostia River Trash Reduction Plan”. I urge you to read this document to learn about the volunteers and also read the data. You will see why there was a real need to reduce plastic bag usage in Washington, DC. Furthermore, the ordinance was not called the Plastic Bag Fee Ordinance, it was named the “Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act of 2009″
The final answer on how to craft a plastic bag ordinance to withstand litigation?
1. Get a cause!
2. Do the leg work.
3. Collect and use data on your immediate area, city or town.
4. Show what plastic bags are doing to your city’s environment, beaches, rivers, or land. It’s not just oceans or marine life that plastic affects. (See article about how plastic bags affect farmers.)