With only three days of Nebraska’s sixty-day legislative session behind us, over 200 new legislative bills have been introduced.  Two of the bills deal with plastic containers statewide.  Please take a minute to read the summary of each below as this is a very important issue to retail. It is not going away and we need your input.

LB 861 – PLASTIC CONTAINER UNIFORMITY – Cities around the country are banning many forms of plastic containers.  Although an attempt by several members of the Omaha City Council to ban plastic bags has not been successful, various bans have been implemented in many cities across the country. (New York City, Seattle, Washington DC, Miami Beach, Minneapolis, Portland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to name a few.)  These bans are far from uniform.   Some cities ban plastic bags, some ban plastic straws, some ban both, and some totally ban Styrofoam.  Since they vary so much from city to city, the difficulty for businesses to comply is multiplied significantly.  LB  861, introduced by Senator Dan Hughes, simplifies business compliance by requiring regulation of plastic containers to be statewide instead of city by city. The bill encourages a uniform statewide recycling effort.  As a result, businesses and residents would not be forced to deal with a patchwork of city ordinances that create regulatory burdens for business and higher costs for consumers.  Your Nebraska Retail Federation supports LB 861. Here is a link to the bill: https://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/106/PDF/Intro/LB861.pdf

LB 905 – FEE ON PLASTIC BAGS – Senator Wendy DeBoer introduced LB905. It would require a five-cent fee on single-use plastic checkout bags. The bill allows the merchant to retain one cent. The remaining four cents on each bag would go to the state. Three cents of the fee to the General Fund and one cent to the Plastic Bag Reduction fund.  We applaud Senator DeBoer for addressing this on a statewide basis and are anxious to participate in the discussion of how best to address the issue. The basic premise of the bill is in line with the position that most of our members share.  That being that a bag fee is much more effective at changing consumer behavior than a bag ban. However, we have several concerns with the bill as introduced.  One concern is the bill only addresses single use plastic check out bags. It does not address paper check out bags which are more expensive to the merchant. If there is no fee on paper bags, the customer will simply choose paper which costs the merchant more and doesn’t have the desired result of changing customer behavior by increasing the number of customers choosing reusable bags. Another concern is that a five-cent fee is too low. It needs to be at least ten cents to impact customer behavior. Also, one cent going back to the merchant does not cover the cost of a plastic bag, let alone a paper bag.  We are hearing that at least four cents back to the merchant would be required to cover the cost of the bags. We welcome member input on this issue. Please contact us with your thoughts. Here is a link to the bill: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/106/PDF/Intro/LB905.pdf