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Plastic bag, container proposal discussed for ABQ

Lindsay Worthington wears a hat decorated with plastic utensils and straws at the KiMo Theatre on Sunday during the Clean & Green Town Hall. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

City Councilor Pat Davis acknowledges that alternatives to plastic and polystyrene may cost more.

“At the end of the day, for preventing pollution, and saving wildlife, protecting the planet, it’s going to cost us a little bit,” he said Sunday regarding a proposal that would limit the use of plastic bags, straws and single-use take-out containers within the city of Albuquerque. “But we think consumers are ready to do this.”

Davis broke down the prices in front of a crowd of about 100 during the Clean & Green Town Hall at the KiMo Theatre in Downtown Albuquerque. He is co-sponsoring the Albuquerque Clean & Green Retail Ordinance with Councilors Isaac Benton, Cynthia Borrego and Diane Gibson.

Davis said moving from plastic to biodegradable bags will cost about 2 cents per bag; biodegradable straws cost about 1 cent more per drink than plastic; and moving from foam containers to a more environmentally friendly option is about 12 to 20 cents per unit. He said those figures were compiled based on information provided by Albuquerque vendors and retailers.

“Would you pay 12 cents more for a carryout order to get your enchiladas home on time to save our planet?” Davis asked, sparking applause from many in the audience.

Benton pointed out that many other cities – more than 200 – have done away with plastic bags. And several are considering laws to cut down on the use of plastic straws.

A group of youngsters speak during the Clean & Green Town Hall on Sunday afternoon at the KiMo Theatre. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

If approved, the ordinance would go into effect Jan. 1, 2020, which Benton said would give everyone time to prepare.

The council in February voted to defer action on the ordinance for 60 days after hearing from more than 30 supporters and opponents. The proposal has drawn criticism from groups including the state’s Restaurant Association, which characterized the ban as one of the most restrictive in the country, and asked that eateries be exempted. One restaurant chain estimated that complying with the ordinance could cost around $250,000 a year.

But the audience members who spoke during the Town Hall on Sunday largely seemed to welcome the proposal. When councilors and city staff stood for questions, a few attendees questioned whether the city had plans for additional green initiatives, like broader options for dealing with green waste or eliminating single use drink containers. One person asked what could be done to accommodate shoppers unable to pay fees that might accompany implementation of the ordinance.

The City Council will again discuss the ordinance at a meeting April 15. A fiscal impact analysis is pending.