Albuquerque’s Clean and Green Retail Ordinance banning single-use plastic bags is affecting Rio Rancho.

According to the City of Albuquerque’s website, most retail stores are subject to the ordinance. Exceptions include restaurants, food banks and dry cleaners. Bernalillo County passed its own ban on single-use plastic and polystyrene containers.

Its website says, “Retailers in the unincorporated areas of Bernalillo County (outside the city limits of Albuquerque and the village limits of Tijeras and Los Ranchos) are required to stop providing plastic single-use carryout bags and single-use polystyrene containers to customers on Jan. 1, 2020.”

Plastic bags and boxes litter the ditch between Rockaway Plaza and NM 528 on Friday. Photo by Amy Byres.

Due to this growing trend of banning single-use plastics, Albertsons in Rio Rancho switched to paper bags Jan. 1 and offers 5 cents off with reusable bags. Representatives at Smith’s and Walmart said they will continue the use of plastic bags in 2020.

Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block, R-District 2, said, “Any business wanting to (not use plastic bags), let them do it without the government telling them they have to.”

Block said the commission doesn’t plan to add a plastic-bag ban to the agenda.

County Commissioner Katherine Bruch, D-District 1, also said there are no plans to consider a plastic-bag ban.

“I do feel like (a plastic bag) is a product past its time. Personally I think we should be thinking about renewable options,” she said. “I definitely will be thinking about it more. My first experience today (at Albertsons) was, ‘Wow, this is great.'”

Bruch is thrilled to see the “overflow” from the Clean and Green Retail Ordinance in Rio Rancho and wishes for it to continue.

The Center for Biological Diversity website says, “The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year. According to Waste Management, only 1 percent of plastic bags are returned for recycling.”

That 1 percent equals 15 bags a year.

The website says, “It takes 500 (or more) years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill. Unfortunately the bags don’t break down completely but instead photo-degrade, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment.”