The Portsmouth, New Hampshire City Council is meeting tonight for the second reading of a proposal to ban plastic bags in the city council chamber, City hall, starting at 7 pm. This is not the Council’s first dance with a proposed bag ban. Back in the spring of 2015 a Blue Ribbon Committee on Sustainable Practices, headed by Bert Cohen, proposed a similar ban that was eventually dropped. The City came to the conclusion that it did not have the authority under state law.
The legislature recently rejected enabling legislation, but Portsmouth is plowing ahead none the less.
The city is aware of the legal hurdles but City Councilor Brad Lown, a lawyer, and sponsor of the ban, thinks it is in the city’s interest to risk a court challenge.
There are plenty of other reasons to dump the proposal, most of which were addressed back in 2015, but other concerns have surfaced since then.
Plastic bag bans sacrifice jobs and the local economy on the altar of environmental advantages that don’t exist.
The study also sought to determine if consumers changed their shopping behavior by increasing purchases at stores that could still offer plastic bags.
Pamela Villarreal, NCPA senior fellow, told PlasticsToday it was interesting to find that consumers chose to shop at stores unaffected by the ban. “What we suspect is people that live in an area under a bag ban, but are in close proximity to an area without one, will ‘vote with their feet,'” she said. “We often hear that people oppose plastic bags, but it sure does look like a lot of people do like them.”
Thin film bags are reusable, recyclable, produced domestically, represent a minuscule portion of the waste stream, have a lower overall impact on the environment, and consumers prefer them.
Portsmouth can choose to ignore the law. If they challenge the state and win, the odds are good that 5-10% of shoppers will take their business outside the city to avoid the ban. Jobs and revenue will go with them.
Is there room on that same altar of environmentalism for the City of Portsmouth to sacrifice a commensurate part of its budget?
If the answer is no, then perhaps the City Council should listen to the lawyers, skip the lawsuit, and put the bag ban back in the drawer.