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Solid waste legislative expert predicts success for a statewide bag ban

By: Jim Johnson
WASTE & RECYCLING NEWS

May 3, 2013

CHICAGO — In China, it's the year of the snake. In the United States, it's the year of the plastic bag.

More specifically, the year of legislative activity surrounding the use, taxation and recycling of plastic bags. From California on the West Coast to Maine on the East Coast and Louisiana in the South, state lawmakers are looking at the issue of single-use plastic bags.

At least that's how Chaz Miller, director of state programs at the National Solid Wastes Management Association, sees 2013 playing out.

Miller, who keeps his finger on the pulse of solid waste and recycling legislative and regulatory activity around the country, recently said the most popular topic early on among state legislatures in terms of recycling is plastic bags.

Miller spoke about the 2013 legislative activity at the recent Residential Recycling Conference in Chicago co-organized by Waste & Recycling News and Republic Services Inc.

"Not a lot of bills have been introduced yet," he said, regarding solid waste and recycling, estimating the total at 255 as of late March.

"And, ironically, the largest single subject of all these bills at the state level is plastic bags. Thirty-five plus bills would either ban plastic bags or put taxes on them or require their take-back. They tend to cover both plastic and paper bags."

"It's clearly the topic du jour at the state level," he said. "I expect some of those laws to pass this year."

Food waste also will be a focus of regulation and legislation this year, he told the RRC audience. "Food waste is going to have a lot of traction at the state level, again, regulatory more than anything else this year."

Miller indicated about 525 bills regarding recycling and solid waste were introduced last year, with 85 of those passed by legislatures.

"Most of those bills were fairly minor bills. They were tweaking existing bills or expanding some authorities. The broadest of those bills was clearly Vermont, which passed a statewide mandatory recycling law, including a number of bans on disposal of recyclable materials," he said.

Vermont's law, he said, includes a ban on food waste disposal that will begin next year. However, areas will be exempted if there is not a composting facility to accept the material within 20 miles.