Michigan Just Banned Local Governments From Banning Plastic Bags

Michigan lawmakers and the Lt. Governor Brian Calley just passed a controversial law that essentially bans local government officials in counties and cities in Michigan from banning plastic bags. Just in case you doubt whether you read that right; Michigan just preemptively banned the banning of plastic bags.

In a report from The Washington Post, Michigan, which has been under fire for another major public health controversy and environmental disaster in Flint, has now passed a bill that takes control away from local governments to ban products that are potentially harmful to the environment.

In case anyone was wondering why Lt. Governor Brian Calley signed the bill instead of Michigan’s actual governor, Rick Snyder, that’s because Snyder has been on vacation, and he is currently out of the state. Although Snyder is typically the person who has to empower laws of such a magnitude, in the case of his absence, the Lt. Governor has the authority to sign bills that come across his desk.

The ban on banning plastic bags is a bill that came across his desk on Wednesday among eleven other bills, which Lt. Governor Calley signed into law in Rick Snyder’s absence.

Of course, the Michigan bill has wording in it that sounds innocuous to the real intent of the bill if read without intense scrutiny and interpretation. This is something that lawmakers have done in recent years to chip away at the environmental agenda in many state legislatures. That includes states like Indiana, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

The Michigan bill in question states that local counties, cities, towns or municipalities are prohibited from “regulating the use, disposition, or sale of, prohibiting or restricting, or imposing any fee, charge, or tax on certain containers” in the state of Michigan. Those said containers include plastic bags, cups, bottles, and many different forms of packaging.

In some states and cities across the United States, there have been fees imposed on the use of plastic bags. The reason behind this is simply the amount of harm that can be done to the environment if plastic materials are used too heavily and then placed in landfills for disposal.

The basic science behind the harm that plastic causes the environment is the cycle of decomposition. Materials discarded and placed in landfills are done so with the expectation that they will degrade over time and eventually become reclaimed by the earth, thus leaving the materials to re-assimilate as a natural resource within the planet.

Therein lies the problem, though. Plastic materials are believed to be degradable over time. But the amount of time it takes for plastic to break down is infinitely longer than other materials, such as paper and wood. Plastic is believed to be able to withstand decomposition for up to a thousand years, which means that plastic material in landfills will not re-assimilate with the natural processes of the earth for so many generations that it could essentially paralyze life at some point, if enough plastic were to be buried in the ground or dumped in the ocean.

It is unclear at this point why Michigan has taken such actions in regards to prohibiting local governments from banning plastic bags or imposing fees on plastic bags. But the Michigan Restaurant Association was singing praise for the Michigan law.

Robert O’Meara, the Michigan Restaurant Association’s vice president of government affairs, released a statement about the new Michigan law, and it sounded as if the law stood to benefit the companies it supports.

“With many of our members owning and operating locations across the state, preventing a patchwork approach of additional regulations is imperative to avoid added complexities as it related to day-to-day business operations,” the statement read.

[Featured Image by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images]