Banning the ban of banning plastics: Michigan bill would repeal 2016 law

From Starbucks to McDonald's, companies and states are starting to ban single use plastics. But in late 2016 Michigan lawmakers did the exact opposite - they voted to ban the banning of plastics.

"Anything they define as auxiliary container, so that's really anything; cups, plates, takeout containers, plastic bags. Really anything you could carry out of a grocery store for a single use is covered by this," explains Sean Hammond, the Michigan Environmental Countil's deputy policy director.

And now legislatures are working to flip the script again. They recently introduced House Bill 4500 to repeal that law.

Representative Robert Wittenberg introduced the bill saying, "So there was a push to ban, and then they banned banning, and now we are banning the banning of banning."

"We really need to start to get ahead of this now, especially as we continue to find things more and more micro plastics in the Great Lakes, more and more plastics in the ocean. We really need to get ahead of this," Hammond says.

The Michigan Restaurant Association, a group that was in favor of the original banning of banning of plastics, have previously said, in effect, that a patchwork of regulations is not what they want.

Michigan is far from the only state that has laws against regulating plastic bags. According to, 10 states have some kind of regulation, including Florida, Arizona and Minnesota. 

But if the House bill passes, perhaps more counties will follow in Washtenaw's County footsteps when they hoped to enforce a 10 cent tax on plastic bags before that 2016 bill passed. 

"This is a major problem and it's going to take everyone banning together to come up with a solution and really move toward a more reusable society," Hammond says.

There is no timeline for House Bill 4500 but it does have bipartisan support, and lawmakers hope it can gain momentum in the next several weeks and months.