Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Less than four months after its implementation, Albuquerque’s plastic bag ban is on a break.
Mayor Tim Keller said Thursday the city would temporarily lift its ban on single-use plastic bags to make life “easier” for shoppers and retailers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The city will not enforce the ordinance – which took effect Jan. 1 – for 30 days.
The mayor said grocers requested the change, with some saying they were struggling to buy enough paper bags to meet their needs and others wanting to streamline the checkout process.
But the city not only intends to reinstate the ban but actually strengthen it later this year, Keller said. He wants to stop what he called “end arounds” by big box retailers who have been distributing heavier plastic bags the ordinance does not now specifically prohibit.
“Just because you make them thicker that’s not going to work starting this summer,” Keller said.
City Council approved the ban last April, and it began this year.
Councilor Isaac Benton, who co-sponsored the legislation, said he is “not thrilled” about the temporary change in city policy.
“But it’s not a fight I’m going to pick,” he said Thursday. “We have a lot of moving pieces right now and everybody kind of needs to pull together.”
Keller said Albuquerque shoppers for now can use any kind of bag they want, although some retailers have implemented their own bag-related policies.
According to Target’s website, the chain’s cashiers will “for now” stop handling reusable bags and have shoppers who bring them bag their own items at checkout.
Keller stressed that the city was not lifting the ban out of health concerns. He referenced a Thursday New York Times story about the plastic industry’s effort to kill bag bans around the country by claiming reusable bags are germ-infested.
One study critics commonly cite was funded by a group that represents plastics manufacturers. It found reusable bags can contain bacteria but “recommends that shoppers simply wash their reusable bags, not replace them,” according to the Times.
“It always helps if you wash them, but it is not a health issue,” Keller said.