Support HB 2395 to Save Local Recycling, the Environment, and Our Economy

plastic bags get stuck in recycling machine

This has been a year of action for Sustainable Tucson. We committed to including an action with every educational meeting.

At our Recycling and Beyond meeting, we not only learned about the new rules for recycling and why they are important, but we also formed a Zero Plastic Waste team. Here is a recording of our first meeting. But it is really a working group. We already wrote and promoted the blog, “Lessons from Our Recycling Queen.” (I suggest everyone read and learn it. Our bad recycling is making it cost prohibitive to have a recycling program in Tucson.) We just finished drafting a one-sheet (two sides) about HB2395 – which repeals the law that makes it illegal for towns like Bisbee to ban plastic grocery bags and other packaging. The one-sheet will be included in attendees’ folders for Environmental Day at the Capitol and they will be handed to our state legislators.

Even if you can’t attend Environmental Day at the Capitol, you can still help out by e-mailing your state representatives and asking them to support HB2395.

Feel free to attach a link to the one-sheet to your e-mail:

And here is the link to the actual bill, HB2395, that repeals ARS 9-500.38 and 11-269.16:

To find out who your Representative is, just find your district and use that to look up your Rep.

If you haven’t already, you might wanna go ahead and sign up for Request to Speak. I will be posting opportunities to weigh in on this bill when it gets into committee.

Support HB 2395 to Save Local Recycling, the Environment, and Our Economy

A Local Solution Thwarted by State Government

The most recent visitors study estimated that tourism brought nearly $280 million per year of revenue to businesses in Cochise County. In an effort to make Bisbee more attractive to tourists, the city passed an ordinance in 2012 banning single-use plastic bags, becoming the first city in Arizona to do so. The mayor of Bisbee, David M. Smith, claimed that before the ordinance was enacted, plastic bags sullied the street, helicoptered through the air, and draped over cactuses. Mayor Smith said that the ban “made a huge difference” and that most residents were “thrilled” by the ban. Opponents of the ban on plastic bags, including Sen. Warren Petersen, claimed that the government should not be micromanaging what types of bags consumers used. Thus, in reaction to this bag ban, legislators passed a law (ARS 9-500.38 and 11-269.16) that prohibits local city and county governments from enacting bans on “auxiliary containers”—in other words, plastic bags. Bisbee was forced to repeal their ordinance banning plastic bags or lose nearly two million dollars in state funding.

House Bill 2395, which has been sponsored by Rep. Kirsten Engel, Rep. Sally Gonzales, and Sen. Juan Mendez, calls for the repeal of the portions of Arizona Law that prohibit local city and county governments from enacting bans on auxiliary containers. The bill does not itself institute a ban on plastic bags; however, it allows communities to decide at the local level whether they wish to ban them. Now while some legislators may believe that plastic bags are innocuous and that preventing their use is “micromanaging,” the effects of plastic bag contamination on our local recycling efforts are substantial and preventing local solutions is costly.

Plastic bags getting caught in machinery makes it cost prohibitive to recycle in Tucson.

Contamination Costly to Recycling Facilities:

  • Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) are not equipped to handle plastic bags, which get tangled in the recycling sorting equipment. Plastic bag contamination requires machinery to be shut down every three hours for cleaning, which wastes workers’ time and taxpayers’ money. Tucson’s recycling program had a deficit of $17,000 in FY 2018 and a projected deficit of $900,000 for FY 2019.
  • The City of Phoenix estimates that clearing plastic bags from recycling equipment costs nearly $1 million dollars in lost time annually.

Plastic Contaminates Our Food and Water Supply

Single use plastic bags from grocery stores present a myriad of issues for our environment. Hundreds of millions of plastic bags make it into landfills and oceans every year. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more pieces of plastic in the ocean than there are fish. Plastic bags don’t decompose like plant material. Instead they photodegrade which means they just break down into smaller pieces of plastic. These smaller pieces of plastic serve as a kind of magnet that absorb toxins. Those toxins can then be transferred into animals that eat the debris, meaning that they can eventually end up in our food supply and ultimately in our bodies.

Bag Bans can be Effective

There is significant evidence that bans on plastic bags can be effective. In San Jose, Santa Monica, and LA County, bans resulted in huge increases in people using reusable bags (increase from 5% to 45%) or going without a bag (increase from 17% to 40%). This behavioral shift resulted in these municipalities avoiding the use of hundreds of millions of single use plastic bags. Studies showed that “[l]ocal economies are not negatively impacted in the long run.”

Please Support HB2395

Local governments have been working hard with non-profit organizations, city waste-management agencies, businesses, college and high school students, and citizen volunteers to find ways to eliminate plastic bags from the waste stream. This issue requires consideration of bans, fees, and/or improved recycling efforts by local participants. ARS 9-500.38 and 11-269.16 significantly interferes with these efforts. Please support HB 2395 so that municipalities can continue developing solutions in concert with local businesses, residents, and others.