Las Vegas-area residents share thoughts on plastic bag ban

In August 2014, California emerged as the first state to legislatively ban single-use plastic bags in major retail stores.

Nevada might follow suit. Legislators were set to consider Assembly Bill 344, presented by Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, D-Las Vegas. It would require retail stores to charge customers 10 cents per plastic bag through December 2021. That money would go into a Plastic Bag Environmental Cleanup Fund, and retailers that violate the law could be fined $500.

What do residents say about a ban?

Jenn Micastro had just finished shopping at a grocery store near The Lakes.

“They’re not good for the environment,” she said. “I don’t know, is it too expensive for them to replace them with paper? I reuse these for my litter, though that still isn’t a good thing for the environment.”

Frieda Vahedi tries to remember to bring reusable bags “because of the environment,” she said. “I don’t like the plastic. It’s destroying the environment. When I see them stuck in bushes, it makes me feel bad.”

In 2008, Waste Management estimated that, worldwide, people discard between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags annually. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lists single-use plastic bags as a major contributor to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a floating island of trash. On land, plastic bags catch on bushes and fences, making for unsightly garbage; clog water systems; and go into landfills.

Len Christopher, general manager of Republic Services’ Southern Nevada Recycling Division, said he encourages consumers to return plastic sacks to the originating store.

“On average we probably see roughly 100 tons per year of plastic bags and shrink film that end up getting recycled,” he said. “Many of the plastic bags also end up going to the landfill.”

As for a ban, he said, “As the recycling general manager here in Southern Nevada I would encourage it, but it would require support at the local and state level.”

Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown said that after California passed a ban, it was inevitable that the possibility would be floated here. Nevada doesn’t usually follow California’s lead, he added.

“And I say that respectfully, but a lot of times I think California is a far more liberal state,” Brown said. “Especially when it comes to the government’s role in creating these types of ordinances. … On the issue of bags and stuff, they are probably farther (ahead) than we are.”

It’s not unheard of for a local government to take up the bag issue.

The District of Columbia banned the distribution of non-recyclable, disposable, plastic carry-out bags in 2009. San Jose, California, started its own ban on single-use plastic bags in January 2012.

One year later, San Jose reported “a reduction in bag litter of approximately 89 percent in the storm drain system, 60 percent in the creeks and rivers, and 59 percent in city streets and neighborhoods.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, between 2015 and 2016, roughly 75 bills were proposed in 23 states to regulate plastic bag use in retail settings.

If Nevada’s measure passes, a total ban on plastic bags at grocery and retail stores will not take effect until 2022.

Contact Jan Hogan at jhogan@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2949.

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