By Bret Anne Serbin, Missoulian
Missoula City Council President and Ward 3 Councilor Gwen Jones defended Missoula’s ability to manage plastic recycling at the Legislature on Tuesday.
She joined numerous Montanans seeking to return control to local governments for the regulation of plastic items.
House Bill 413, heard in the House Local Government Committee, would repeal House Bill 407 passed in 2021. Considered a “ban on bans,” HB 407 eliminated the ability for local governments to dictate local usage of single-use plastics and other materials.
“To me, the key issue is really local control and it’s local control over our environment specifically,” Jones told the committee. Her comments upheld the city’s recent commitment to support efforts at the Legislature aimed at restoring local control.
“Missoula as a community has a long history of valuing and caring for our environment,” Jones added Tuesday. “To not allow local governments to act in this way on the mandate of their community members is arbitrary and I hope that HB 413 passes so we can have this opportunity.”
A slew of commenters backed up Jones’ remarks to the committee.
“I think the last session probably went way too far,” said Thomas Jodin, deputy director for the Montana League of Cities and Towns. “This (HB 407) fundamentally goes against the principles of democracy.”
Matthew Passini with the Montana Environmental Information Center cited the Montana Constitution’s guarantee of a right to a clean and healthful environment.
“We don’t pay money for our single-use plastics bags at the grocery store, so what is their true cost?” Passini asked. “The true cost comes in the form of plastic waste that clogs our waterways and our storm drains, waste that leaches toxic chemicals into our soil. This environmental degradation in turn affects human health.”