A Ban on Bans: Alabama Legislature Proposes Statewide Prohibition of Bans on Plastic Waste

For Immediate Release: April 8, 2019

Contact: Casi (kc) Callaway, Executive Director & Baykeeper

callaway@mobilebaykeeper.org. 251-433-4229.

(Mobile, Ala.) - Last week, Alabama House Rep. Ledbetter and Alabama Senators Livingston, Reed, Waggoner, Marsh, Chambliss, Givhan, Butler, Scofield, Whatley, Price, and Smitherman will introduce House Bill 346 (HB346) and Senate Bill 244 (SB244), respectively. Both bills would prohibit local communities from deciding how to deal with plastic waste. The Bills are an overstep by the state government into local communities' rights that will have a negative impact on our economies and natural resources. Mobile Baykeeper is staunchly against these copied-and-pasted ALEC bills. SB244 will be heard on Tuesday, April 9, at 1pm.

The Bills rob Alabama communities of their independence and decision-making power. Both bills, which are identical, would “prohibit local governing bodies from banning the use of plastic grocery bags,” reaching more broadly to “prevent municipal and county governments from adopting or enforcing an ordinance that regulates the use, disposition, or sale of, or prohibits, restricts, or imposes any fee, charge, or tax on certain auxiliary containers.” Fees and bans are important tools for communities to protect the health of their residents, their economy, and environment from the problems caused by plastic waste. The Bills, however, take those tools away from Alabamians statewide.

Here in Mobile, plastics and microplastics jeopardize our coastal economy, contaminating seafood and degrading quality of life. A 2016 Dauphin Island Sea Lab study found that microplastics were ubiquitous on the shorelines of Mobile Bay and that polyethylene (the polymer used to make plastic bags) was the most abundant polymer found. During the 2014 Alabama Coastal Clean-up, grocery bags were the 5th most commonly found item.

When plastic waste enters our waterways, it damages our fisheries and negatively impacts our state's natural beauty. A United Nations report has found that plastic waste causes $13 billion worth of damage to marine ecosystems every year. In addition to our coastal seafood industry, Alabama's outdoor recreation industry has a $10.4 billion economic impact, which will absolutely suffer if communities are not allowed to exercise their own judgement and take action to limit dangerous and unsightly plastic waste.

Marine plastics also threaten human health. Scientists have found that microplastics can attract up to one million times more toxins than the ambient water that surrounds them. These toxins enter the food chain, eventually winding up on our dinner plates. Plastic bags specifically result in a serious physical threat to marine life: turtles, fish and shorebirds commonly found in Alabama and Mobile Bay have been found to ingest and become entangled in plastic bags. These injuries are often fatal.

Both bills have been copied and pasted from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a fill-in-the-blank bill mill. This one-size-fits-all legislation does not serve Alabama’s unique economies and environment, which deserve more care than these legislators show in their statewide prohibition. These Bills are an overstep by the state government into local communities' rights that will have a negative impact on our economies and natural esources.

Mobile Baykeeper is working to stop these careless bills from passing. Please visit mobilebaykeeper.org/plastic-pollution-ban to send a letter to your senator and representative.


To learn more about Mobile Baykeeper’s work on this issue, visit our website or call 251-433-4229.

The best way to support our work is by becoming a member.

Mobile Baykeeper is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization that works to provide citizens a means to protect the beauty, health and heritage of the Mobile Bay Watershed and our coastal communities. For more information, please visit www.mobilebaykeeper.org.