What Cities are Banning Plastic Bags, Bottles

A growing number of cities are banning plastic bags and bottles, or implementing fees, to encourage the use of eco-friendly items instead. See what cities are doing to reduce their carbon footprints

What Happened?
Several major cities across the country have passed restrictions on the sale of plastic bags and bottles to eliminate hazardous discarded material into the community and landfills. Some of the cities have banned the plastic products, while others have implemented fees to encourage the use of eco-friendly, reusable items instead.

Goal
Cities such as San Francisco and Seattle want to discourage and reduce single-use, single-servicing plastic items such as bags and bottles. Ban the Bottle reported plastic items are prevalently purchased and used, yet a small percentage are appropriately recycled, leaving large volumes to be found in landfills or on the street as litter. The dangers of plastic items include

  • 50 billion plastic water bottles are used annually in America, only 23 percent are recycled
  • Energy wasted using bottle water can power 190,000 homes each year
  • The PET found in plastic bottles can cause dizziness and depression, or even nausea and vomiting over time

Surfrider revealed plastic bags are equally detrimental to environmental health and sustainability. When plastic bags are not properly recycled, they often enter marine environments in the form of litter. The plastic can then break up into smaller pieces which are consumed by animals and have negative health impacts on plants and wildlife. Over time a gyre – systems of circulating currents resulting in a mountain of debris and waste – forms in bodies of water which continually pollute the ecosystems surrounding it.

By eliminating plastic bags and bottles, municipalities are reducing carbon emissions and carbon footprints, while keeping residents away from hazardous materials.

Model Bans
Several cities have taken a stand on the use of plastic bottles and bags:

  • San Francisco: Ban of the sale of plastic water bottles on city-owned property, with the exception of sporting events. Food trucks and large nonprofits have until 2018 to comply with the new ordinance
  • Toronto: Prohibits sale and distribution of water bottles in all civic centers, public facilities and parks back in 2012.
  • Seattle: Prohibits retail stores from using single-use plastic carryout bags. Retail stores must charge at least 5 cents per paper carryout bags and keep the revenue, which is a taxable retail sale. Violations of the law will result in fines of $250.
  • Concord: One of the first cities in the country to ban single-serving plastic water bottles in 2013, fining stores up to $50 for violating the ban, and charging a 5 cent tax on disposable plastic bag sales.

California has also become the first state to put a plastic bag ban into law. Senate Bill 270 places consequences on manufacturers who develop and sell the banned items. After 36 percent of the state’s cities and counties adopted bag ordinances, the state decided to create a uniform regulation for companies to follow based on the success at the local level.

By eliminating plastic bottles and bags, California expects to:

  • Reduce pollution and waste
  • Lower cost of reusable bags at stores
  • Increase job growth in green industries creating alternative products

Under the law, the distribution of single-use plastic bags will be banned by July 2015. Stores can sell paper, durable resuable bags and compostable bags for 10 cents – encouraging consumers to buy resusable bags.

Small Changes in Recycling Habits
EfficientGov has kept a close eye on the latest trends in recycling efficiency, ranging from small fees to citywide projects.

About the author

EfficientGov Staff

EfficientGov is an independent information service providing innovative solutions to fiscal and operational challenges facing cities and towns around the world.