Memphis Officials Still Want Ban on Plastic Grocery Bags

Jul 22, 2019

An original City Council proposal wanted to charge a fee for every plastic bag a shopper used at a grocery store.
Credit Public Domain ( Juan Pablo Arenas) /

Though Tennessee lawmakers passed legislation this year barring cities from regulating single-use plastics such as grocery bags, some Memphis officials are still looking for ways to curb plastic waste.

Before the new law took effect, the City Council had been considering a local five- to seven-cent tax on each plastic grocery store bag. In quashing citywide plastic-related ordinances, legislators argued that the state needs a uniform policy on plastics. Some local officials say lawmakers are catering to plastic industry lobbyists at the expense of the environment, and compromising the autonomy of municipalities.

Council member Berlin Boyd says the Division of Public Works spends about $3 million dollars a year disposing of plastic bags. 

“At some point and time, you have to say, 'okay state, if you're not going to allow us to ban these bags, then you should start paying or sending some more money down to [the] city of Memphis, to help us to pay to mitigate the cost to dispose of these bags,'” he said.             

Boyd is calling for an outright ban on plastic grocery bags in Memphis. He says Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has yet to determine if the council’s newest proposal violates current state law.    

A spokesperson for Slatery wouldn’t comment specifically on Boyd’s plan but said the attorney general has a “duty and obligation to defend state law.”