Pontiac Times

Pontiac Times

Friday, April 3, 2020

Rep. Wittenberg: Local communities should decide fate of plastic bags


By Angela Watson | Jan 23, 2020


A bill focused on plastic bags is a source of debate in Michigan. 

House Bill 4500 was introduced in April of last year by state Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Huntington Woods). The bill has bipartisan support - Rep. Gary Howell (R-North Branch) is co-sponsor.  

Currently, communities are banned from regulating or taxing single-use containers and plastic bags, Wittenberg said. 

Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Huntington Woods)

HB4500 actually stems from an effort a few years ago, Wittenberg said. 

“Washtenaw County in Ann Arbor, Michigan wanted the communities to decide and regulate the use of plastic bags and single-use containers,” he told Pontiac Times.

Instead, lawmakers passed legislation – Senate Bill 853 – barring local communities from taxing, prohibiting restricting or imposing fees on those items. 

Wittenberg said his bill is “a ban to ban the ban.” It’s a play on words he said, but the issue is a serious one. Many people who live along the lakes in particular consider it a huge problem. 

“They talk about the plastic bags and containers that wash up on the shore,” he said.

HB4500 would put the local communities in control, Wittenberg said. 

“Every community is different and they (residents) know what would be a good fit for their particular area," he said. 

Putting control in the hands of local communities isn’t the only benefit of HB 4500, Wittenberg said. Addressing the use of plastic bags is beneficial to the environment as well.

Critics maintain banning or taxing plastic bags would negatively impact consumers and businesses.

Already cash-strapped shoppers would have an added expense to their grocery bills if the bags are taxed. According to thisisplastics.com, plastic bags help sustain 30,000 American jobs, and a ban would hurt the bottom line of companies that manufacture plastic bags.   

But Wittenberg points out communities would have the freedom to make the decision.

“A one-size-fits-all approach by the state isn’t the way to go,” he said. 

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