City council passes amended ordinance limiting single-use plastics

Monday night, city council passed an amended version of an ordinance to limit single-use plastics in Albuquerque.

As city council was looking to vote on the plastic ban Monday night, the cost to shoppers, diners and businesses in Albuquerque also became clearer.

The city laid out the costs in a study done in the leadup to the vote on a bill to make Albuquerque cleaner and greener.

“Basically, what it is, is it eliminates single-use plastics,” City Councilor Cynthia Borrego said.

However, restaurants like Garcia’s Kitchen say the hundreds of thousands in rising costs every year to replace their plastic and styrofoam with more expensive, biodegradable options would translate to a menu price hike.

“Two of our locations only serve on disposable items,” Miia Hebert with Garcia’s Kitchen said. “Maybe just charging a 25 cents or 50 cents fee for a to-go order.”

According to a city study, the cost for a to-go container that can handle New Mexican foods like chile and enchilada is eight cents for styrofoam, but soars to 20 cents for an eco-friendly version. That extra charge comes with mixed reaction.

“It may be environmentally better, but I wouldn’t support it,” Mary Ann Valencia of Albuquerque said. “Putting out any more money is going to be really rough on the pocketbook.”

“I’m willing to pay more because in the long run. It’s going to help our little ones and it’s going to be better for the earth in the long run,” another Garcia’s Kitchen customer said.

At the grocery store, the ordinance states customers can use a canvass bag or get charged ten cents for each plastic one.

“I’d be willing to buy the canvas bag because you can reuse it and it’s a dollar,” one Smith’s customer said.

The economic impact study states constantly buying the plastic bags instead could cost a family of four an extra $146 a year, but some say they’re not ready to give up the one-use grocery bags just yet.

“You can use those for other things, for trash cans or something else,” Valencia said.

The study says a ban could keep about 120 million plastic shopping bags out of the landfill and another 20 million out of storm drains and the river.

Monday night, city council approved the ordinance after eliminating the provisions related to restaurant containers, straws and plastic bags; among other amendments. The amended ordinance will go into effect Jan. 1.

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