By Dylan R.N. Crabb
The Albuquerque City Council met with a full house of spectators last night, forty-one of those people signed up to speak publicly in front of the Council on a specific item agenda. Councilor Cynthia Borrego was absent from the meeting which brought the quorum down to 8 from the full 9-member council. The spotlight was on the Clean & Green Ordinance, a local measure to “pressure businesses (Councilor Pat Davis)” into transitioning to more environmentally-friendly consumer containers.
The ordinance was amended to a phased-in ban to take effect on 1/1/2020, rather than an immediate ban as a temporary reprieve for local businesses from the extra costs of transitioning away from cheap plastics. In the meantime until January of 2020, plastic grocery bags and plastic straws will be available upon request of individual customers. The ordinance was also amended to add a charge of ten cents onto customers asking for plastic bags as a way to encourage consumers to start transitioning to reusable containers.
Opposition to the ordinance came from the restaurant industry, specifically the New Mexico Restaurant Association, arguing that the current cost of transitioning from plastics would be to great on business owners and that consumer prices would inevitably increase as a consequence. A counter-point to that argument was made by private citizens in favor of the ordinance, that the cost is already artificially low and that consumers should be paying more for the luxury of take-home containers. A representative from the New Mexico Recycling Association also made an appearance to speak on behalf of the ordinance.
The proponents of the ordinance focused their arguments on the environmental impacts of plastic trash and claimed responsibility on governments to force the hand of businesses for the sake of the planet. The counter-point to that argument focused on individual liberty and government over-reach, the responsibility of clean environments should be on individuals and businesses making better choices willingly rather than out of necessity.
The three Councilors who voted against the ordinance in the final vote were Councilors Brad Winter, Trudy Jones, and Don Harris.