Detroit City Council Unanimously Backs State Bill to Repeal Plastic Container Preemption Law, Paving the Way for Local Environmental Action

  • Detroit City Council unanimously approved a resolution supporting Michigan State Bill No. 228 (SB 228) to repeal Michigan Public Act No. 389 (PA389) of 2016, which prevents local jurisdictions from regulating single-use plastic containers.
  • The resolution, introduced by Detroit City Council member Scott Benson, aims to restore local government authority to address the environmental and health impacts of single-use plastics.
  • The Green Task Force played a crucial role in identifying PA 389 as a barrier to mitigating plastic use and disposal impacts in Detroit, emphasizing the need for sustainable solutions.

The Detroit City Council unanimously voted Oct. 3 to approve a resolution to support Michigan State Bill No. 228 (SB 228), meant to repeal Michigan Public Act No. 389 (PA389) of 2016. PA 389 is a preemption law prohibiting the regulation of single-use plastic containers, or “auxiliary containers”, by local jurisdictions such as the City of Detroit.

Detroit City Council’s support of SB 228 aims to restore the authority to local governments as best positioned to assess and mitigate the environmental and health impacts of single-use plastics within their communities. The resolution was introduced by Detroit City Council member Scott Benson (District 3), who chairs the Green Task Force.

"Single-use plastics, such as bags or bottles, are one of the biggest contributors of pollution not only in Michigan but in our country. More than 90 percent of plastics end up in landfills, our waterways, and in incinerators. By repealing the ban on the ability to ban these products, it will give local communities the opportunity to impose bans if they so choose. This is a local control measure that I support, and I encourage the state Legislature to act upon it. Our environment and our cities deserve better,” said Council Member Benson.

In late 2022, the Green Task Force and State and Local Policy Subcommittee began months of dialogue and engagement with subject matter experts on what can be done to reduce plastic use and disposal in Detroit. As a result, members identified PA 389 as a legal roadblock to Detroit municipal leaders to take any action in mitigating plastic use and disposal impacts.

The Green Task Force found the detrimental health effects of microplastics, the inadequacies of current recycling facilities in handling plastics, and the need for innovative, sustainable solutions which can only be possible if PA389 is repealed.

In March 2023, the Michigan State Senate introduced Senate Bill 228, currently being reviewed by the Michigan State legislature Committee on Energy and Environment. The bill is sponsored by a coalition of State Senators Sue Shink, Dayna Polehanki, Rosemary Bayer, Jeremy Moss, Veronica Klinefelt, Erika Geiss, Stephanie Chang, Mallory McMorrow, Jeff Irwin, Sarah Anthony, Sean McCann, Mary Cavanagh, Paul Wojno, Winnie Brinks, Sylvia A. Santana, Kevin Hertel, and John Cherry.

Recognizing the urgent need for change, the Detroit City Council Green Task Force has been at the forefront of advising the Council on sustainable practices that prioritize water, renewable energy, energy waste reduction, climate action, organics recycling, and recycling & waste reduction.

“Detroiters are disproportionately harmed by plastic pollution from the time the oil is refined at Marathon in southwest Detroit to the years of burning plastic end-products in our incinerator. Our stores are filled with it and our streets are scattered with plastic waste that clog our drains and overwhelm our wastewater system, while only a small fraction of Detroit's plastic waste (4.4%) is potentially recyclable,” said KT Morelli, organizer of Breathe Free Detroit, Co-Chair of the Detroit City Council Green Task Force: State and Local Policy Subcommittee and Delegate to Break Free From Plastic's Environmental Justice Delegation for the United Nations Global Plastic Treaty.

"Focusing on reduction will have the biggest impact on eliminating plastic pollution in the waste stream and in our environment. Yet our elected officials are not legally able to create any bans on this problematic material because of the preemption law for single use plastics; repealing this law will increase the quality of life for Detroiters, our environment, and for the systems we operate as a city.”

Detroit City Council’s endorsement of SB 228 stands as a testament to its commitment to a sustainable future for its residents and the environment. The Council’s stance underscores the overreliance on single-use plastics in recent years that has resulted in a staggering accumulation of waste that has far-reaching implications for Detroit and beyond. Single-use plastics epitomize today's throwaway culture, where convenience often trumps long-term sustainability and consideration of the environmental impacts. Rather than investing in durable, long-lasting goods, people have become accustomed to the convenience of disposability.

Detroiters find themselves disproportionately impacted by the entire life cycle of single-use plastics. The harmful consequences of single-use plastic pollution constitute a significant health and environmental hazards faced by the people of Detroit on a daily basis. A study conducted by the Rochester Institute of Technology found there is a dire environmental crisis affecting the Great Lakes region. According to the study, "nearly 22 million pounds of plastic debris enter the Great Lakes every year." This alarming influx of plastic waste eventually disintegrates into microplastics, which are then ingested by aquatic life, leading to a dangerous cycle of contamination that eventually reaches humans.

Microplastics have been detected in our food systems, water sources, bloodstream, placentas, and even in reproductive organs, highlighting the urgent need to address plastic pollution as a severe human health crisis. The chemicals used in plastics during processing, some of which are known endocrine disruptors, have been linked to hormonal imbalances, reproductive issues, and even cancer.

Recognizing the severity of these human and environmental health concerns, cities across the nation and around the world are actively seeking ways to reduce plastic consumption.

"The City of Detroit takes a monumental step towards a more sustainable future by endorsing Senate Bill 228 to Repeal the Preemption on Single Use Plastics. This resolution signifies our commitment to reducing plastic pollution and protecting our environment. We believe that it is our responsibility to pave the way for a greener, cleaner Detroit and inspire positive change across the nation. By supporting this bill, we are not only safeguarding our city's natural beauty but also setting an example for others to follow. Together, we can make a significant impact, one plastic item at a time,” said Natalie Jakub, Executive Director at Green Living Science and Chair of the Green Task Force Recycling Committee.

In 2017, Mayor Duggan created the City’s first Office of Sustainability to coordinate and lead the City’s sustainability initiatives and create healthy, green, vibrant, accessible neighborhoods where all Detroiters can contribute and benefit. The resolution’s commitment to environmental responsibility empowered by SB 228 allows the City to take a crucial step towards reclaiming its ability to enact policies that protect public health, reduce plastic waste, and contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable city.

"I stand in support of our City Council's decision to approve the resolution in favor of Michigan Senate Bill No. 228. Repealing the prohibition on local jurisdictions like Detroit from regulating single-use plastic containers is not just about environmental responsibility, it's about empowering our community to make sustainable choices. Let’s lead the way towards a greener, more sustainable city, and build a brighter future for generations of Detroiters,” said Jack Akinlosotu, Director of the Office of Sustainability.