Plastic straw ban fails in NH Senate

Plastic straws like these will still be in widespread use in New Hampshire, now that the Senate has defeated a House bill restricting their use.

CONCORD — The state Senate on Wednesday killed a House bill restricting the use of plastic straws, and amended a House bill restricting single-use plastic bags to be something else entirely.

The Senate votes nullify two bills aimed at reducing municipal waste that passed the House largely along partisan lines, with Republicans opposed.

HB 558, which would require food-service businesses to provide a single-use plastic straw only when requested by the customer, came out of the Senate Commerce Committee with a 4-1 recommendation against passage.

That bill was defeated quickly in a voice vote with no debate.

HB 560, regarding single-use plastic bags, also came out of Senate Commerce with a 4-1 recommendation against passage.

Rather than kill that bill on the Senate floor, however, Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, D-Concord, proposed an amendment that wiped out the bill entirely and replaced it with legislation on municipal waste reduction.

The amendment, which passed in a 14-10 party-line vote, calls for all municipalities to file annual reports to the Department of Environmental Services on progress toward meeting the state’s statutory goal of diverting 40 percent of solid waste away from landfills or incinerators.

“The goal of weight diversion may be achieved through source reduction, recycling, reuse, and composting, or any combination of such methods,” according to existing state law.

“The overarching issue is how we deal with waste in the state of New Hampshire, and, whether or not we are meeting our goals with respect to plastic waste and other types of waste, whether or not we are meeting waste diversion goals, and what are the best practices among our municipalities,” Feltes said.

The amendment he presented is virtually identical to a Senate-passed bill, SB 79, which was retained by the House Environment and Agriculture Committee.

House and Senate negotiators will now have to meet to hammer out their differences, with the House calling for restrictions on plastic bags, and the Senate seeking to create a new reporting requirement for cities and towns regarding waste disposal.

Sens. Jay Kahn, D-Keene, and Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, expressed disappointment that the Democratic majority in the Senate failed to pass the grocery bag bill that had come to them from a Democratic majority in the House.

“I find it disheartening at a time when we are looking at a plastic crisis around the world,” said Fuller Clark. “I would much prefer that we refer this bill back to committee so they can work on a solution to address the plastic pollution we are all dealing with.

“The more we can reduce plastic in our waste stream, the better off we are going to be,” she said.