(UM Legislative News Service) If two bills in the Montana Legislature aimed at reducing plastic waste become law, diners would need to request a plastic straw at a restaurant and shoppers would have to pay 4 cents for a plastic bag at retail stores.
Whitney Tawney, program director for Montana Conservation Voters, was one of seven supporters testifying for Senate Bill 120 and 121 in committee Friday. She said plastic is harmful, often overused and pollutes Montana’s waterways.
“If we continue to allow plastic pollution into our streams, rivers and lakes, we will threaten what makes Montana great,” Tawney said.
But opponents said the new regulations would be too hard on small businesses. Helena Chamber of Commerce representative Ronda Wiggers, one of the four people who spoke in opposition Friday, said businesses are already working to reduce plastic themselves.
“These are business decisions,” Wiggers said. “This is not something we need to legislate from the state down.”
Sen. Sue Malek, D-Missoula, is sponsoring the two bills. She said one of the biggest complaints in her community is a lack of recycling options.
“It’s becoming even more of an urgent problem,” she said.
The revenue collected through the 4-cent plastic bag fee in SB 121 would be put into a special account specifically used for waste reduction and recycling. The money would be for grants to promote recycling efforts.
The Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee didn’t take immediate action on the bills.
Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.