ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – State lawmakers want to create a ban on single-use plastic bags in New Mexico. They say this isn’t meant to penalize anyone but rather, to create a shift in our communities.

Senate Bill 243 creates the Plastic Waste Reduction Act, and it bans places like grocery and retail stores and restaurants from using the bags. “This is a bill that would do as several cities in New Mexico have already done – nine other states have already done – and that is to eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags from retail outlets. People could still acquire them on their own. And instead, require paper bags which biodegrade very soon, and plastic we know never really biodegrades fully and ends up in our environment and never really gets recycled and ends up on highways and I could go on and on,” says Senator Jeff Steinborn (D-Las Cruces), sponsor of the bill.

Sen. Steinborn estimates this would save about 500 million bags a year from ending up in New Mexico’s environment. This bill enacts up to a $25 dollar penalty for the use of single-use plastic bags, but leaves room for individual counties and municipalities to enact their own penalties.

No one spoke in opposition of this bill at the Senate Conservation Committee meeting Tuesday morning. Supporters of the bill talked about the toll plastic bags take on wildlife, the environment, and people’s health. “These bags have toxic chemicals in them, endocrine disruptors, that can cause a number of health issues including obesity, diabetes, some cancers, and besides that, they contain additives such as PFAS which bioaccumulate in organisms and people,” one supporter said.

“It’ll affect human health, it’ll affect wildlife, ecology health, so it’s vast,” Steinborn said.

Senator Carrie Hamblen brought up concern for the burden on restaurants and businesses to accommodate this change but voted in favor of this bill. The only ‘no’ vote was Republican Senator David Gallegos who said he felt these decisions should be left up to individual cities.

In an analysis of this bill, the New Mexico Environment Department expressed concerns that the revenue generated from a $25 dollar penalty would not cover the cost of enforcement.