LANSING — State Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Huntington Woods) introduced House Bill 5871 that would repeal Public Act 389 of 2016, a law that prohibits local governments from enacting bans or placing fees on the use of plastic grocery bags and other containers. Once Wittenberg’s bill is passed, local governments would be able to enact their own local rules once again, free from interference by state government.

“On Sunday we are going to celebrate Earth Day. We celebrate Earth Day to help end pollution, including plastic pollution,” Wittenberg said. “Plastic is threatening our planet’s survival, because we use way too much of it. We need to be good stewards of our environment for future generations.”

Specifically, PA 389 prevents communities from placing a ban, fee or tax on bags, cups, bottles or other containers made of cloth, paper, plastic, corrugated materials, aluminum, glass, recycled materials or similar materials that are used to transport merchandise, food or drink from a retailer or food service establishment. The law was enacted as Washtenaw County had been preparing to enact a 10-cent fee on both paper and plastic grocery bags.

According to former Washtenaw County Commissioner and current State Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor), plastic bags cost county recycling facilities more than $200,000 every year. In addition, the Rochester Institute of Technology found that 22 million pounds of plastic flow into the Great Lakes annually.

“This bill was a direct infringement on the rights of local counties, towns, cities, and villages to make their own laws, and decide how they could protect the environment in ways which they saw fit,” Rep. Wittenberg said regarding the original bill. “By repealing it, we’ll be putting power back into the hands of local communities and leaders, allowing them to tax, regulate, or ban plastic bags or other material being sold by retailers, cleaning up their communities.”