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Mayor signs ABQ’s plastic bag ban into law at Earth Day festival

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “This is not time for circumlocution, this is no time for political speech, this is a time to put up or shut up, because the future’s within reach.”

Mayor Tim Keller prepares to sign the single-use plastic bag ban into law during an Earth Day celebration at La Montañita Co-op in Nob Hill on Saturday afternoon. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

So said Albuquerque City Councilor Isaac Benton, drawing inspiration from Lou Reed’s tune “There is No Time,” as a citywide ban on plastic bags was signed into law Saturday afternoon.

“It was about what we are facing today,” he said. “I think we need to pick that banner up from good ol’ Lou and keep going.”

Benton was joined on stage at La Montañita Co-op’s Earth Day Festival by fellow sponsors of the bill – Cynthia Borrego, Pat Davis and Diane Gibson – as well as the Sierra Club, youth from the Global Warming Express and Mayor Tim Keller, who inked the ordinance into law.

An amended version of the bill, the Clean and Green Retail Ordinance, was passed 5-3 late Monday by the City Council and will prohibit businesses from providing single-use plastic bags to customers at the point of sale. It goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

“I’m extremely pleased we got this ban through,” Councilor Gibson said at the Nob Hill ceremony. “It’s so important for the city.”

She said she is appalled by studies that have found that by 2050 there could be as much plastic in the ocean as fish – pound-for-pound.

Gibson said she wants no part of it.

“‘As long as we’re inland’ has nothing to do with it, as long as we participate in that market system, we’re culpable to it,” she said. “We need to change hearts and minds and practices of people.”

As initially proposed, the bill also would have banned businesses from providing foam to-go food containers and restricted the distribution of plastic straws. However, those components were removed as the legislation was amended.

But Gibson vowed to keep the momentum going.

“We’re not done, I’m not done,” she said. “This is a good first step forward.”

Despite the push back from some restaurant and business owners, Gibson said banning plastics could become a trend and have “brag appeal” – be the cool thing to do.

Olivia Gonzales of Global Warming Express applauded city leaders for bringing forth change.

“Thank you for showing us that a couple people, with one big idea, can start something that gives my generation hope for the future,” she said.