Tucson, Arizona Passes Plastic Bag Ordinance

Tucson, Arizona Passes Plastic Bag Ordinance

Tucson, Arizona, March 20, 2013 (PBBR) - The City Council of Tucson, Arizona passed a new ordinance on March 19, 2013 to regulate plastic bags.

In a story that appeared in 2009 in "Inside Tucson Business", 182 million plastic bags are distributed each year in Metropolitan Tucson according to the Pima Association of Governments.

Tucson's new Ordinance No. 11056, relating to plastic bags, requires a reduction in plastic bag consumption and an increase in plastic bag recycling by retail establishments. However, there is no "goal" for either mandate. There is no reduction percentage that must be met within a certain time frame and no increase in recycling percentage that must be met within a certain time frame.

What the law does require, when it goes into effect on April 1st, 2013, is:

  • Retailers must count the number of plastic bags used per customer and the average number of plastic bags per transaction.
  • Then, the retailer must weigh the amount of plastic bags and film that is recycled.
  • Retailers must provide training for all checkout and bagging clerks to include information and instructions to reduce plastic bag consumption
  • Retailers must implement a public educational awareness program for employees and the general public on reducing plastic bag consumption and increasing plastic bag recycling
  • Retailers must report to the City, on a quarterly basis, the Single Use Plastic Bags per Transaction, total number of plastic bags given out, and tons of film plastic collected through the program

Ordinance No. 11056 was passed, adopted and approved by the Mayor and Council of the City of Tucson, Arizona on March 19, 2013.

Now, I am trying to make sense of this new ordinance. The City of Tucson already has an almost identical law in the Tucson Code, Article 7, Section 15.

I see this law as a tremendous burden to the retailer. Not only must the retailer track the number of bags each person receives, but then must buy equipment to weigh the bags and film brought back to the store for recycling. The only way that I see a reduction in plastic bag consumption occurring is if the retailer puts more products into each bag.

Furthermore, where will the plastic bags and film go for recycling? The city's Environmental Services Dept., under their recycling and waste reduction services, the Commercial Recycling guidelines clearly state that no plastic bags are accepted. In the city's recycling guidelines for consumers, they plainly state, in bold and all-caps letter, DO NOT RECYCLE THESE ITEMS: Plastic bags or plastic film packaging.

In Summary
What will this new plastic bag ordinance accomplish? Considering that the Mayor and Council spent months with the Plastic Bag Working Group to come up with this ordinance, I feel the law will accomplish exactly what the law states: a tremendous paper trail, for the retailer and the city.

Will the law reduce the 182,000 plastic bags used each year in the City of Tucson? I just don't see it happening. We'll check back in a year or so to see.
Cover photo: Tucson, Arizona. Author: Zereshk. Licensed by Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

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