Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Will Arkansas Ban Plastic Shopping Bags?
A “single-use carryout bag” is defined as a bag that is made of plastic, provided to the customer at the point of sale, and designed to be used between 1 and 100 times.
The proposed ban illustrates the conundrum faced by Arkansas’ green-minded citizenry, by sustainability proponents, and by lawmakers. On the one hand, if it passes, HB 1043 can be seen as an important recognition of sustainable values (a section of the bill entitled “findings and legislative intent” states that the bill is necessary “for the environmental, public health, and societal burdens created by single-use carryout bags”), and that some sustainable goals and benchmarks can be achieved through legislative action.
On the other hand, HB 1043 illustrates the difficulty in legislating sustainability. It is a proverbial paper tiger. There is no enforcement mechanism. No penalty provision. No incentive for compliance. What good is a ban if retailers have no incentive to comply and if violations carry no consequence? This type of approach requires both a carrot and a stick, and HB 1043 has neither.