Current Republican State Senator Denny Altes will start his new job as state representative at the beginning of the legislative session on Jan. 1, 2011, by introducing a new bill. On Dec. 6, Republican State Senator Denny Altes filed a bill for the new legislative session. Shocking members of the environmental community and likely some of his Republican peers, the bill he filed would eliminate plastic bags and encourage the use of reusable bags in Arkansas.
The Reusable Shopping Act
would "prohibit a store from providing a single-use carryout bag to a customer" and, instead, make reusable bags available for purchase. If passed, the elimination of plastic bags would go into effect on January 1, 2012.
The bill includes a variety of reasons for why plastic bags should no longer be a part of the typical trip to the store:
1) The accumulation of single-use bags has a negative impact on the environment, public health and society.
2) Although single-use plastic bags can be recycled, a large percentage of the bags end up as litter or in landfills.
3) Reusable bags, an effective alternative to plastic bags, already exist.
To fully understand State Sen. Altes's bill, it is important to note what specifically is the difference between a single-use bag and a reusable bag and to what extent their use will be limited if the bill passes.
• A single-use bag is made for more than one but less than 100 uses, it is made of plastic and is provided by a store to its customers. Paper bags are not considered a single-use bag.
• A reusable bag is made for more than one hundred uses and is made of a washable material that does not contain any materials defined as toxic by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
• The prohibition of plastic bags would affect stores that are: supermarkets, stores that have more than 10,000 square feet of space that generates sales, and convenience stores that sell food items.
• Only supermarkets making more than $2 million will be impacted.
How much opposition will this bill face in the coming year? Could Arkansas become the first state to ban plastic bags?