Fri. Jun 18th, 2021

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A new Arkansas state law prohibits local governments from controlling what to-go containers businesses can use.

A law that will most likely invalidate Fayetteville’s current Styrofoam ban.

Fayetteville City Attorney Kit Williams says this could be a big price for the environment to pay. “I thought it was kind of ironic that on Earth Day, I would find out that the city council can no longer attempt to protect the environment,” Williams said.

On Monday, Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law Act 751, prohibiting cities from regulating what to-go containers businesses can use.

Williams says this will undo the city’s work to limit businesses from using Styrofoam and single-use plastics. “It creates a big environmental problem for here in Fayetteville, if we go out and try to clean up creeks or anything, that’s what we find. That’s one of our biggest problems,” Williams said.

The city’s Styrofoam ban requires businesses to use compostable to-go containers. “We’re not going to do anything radical that would hurt our restaurants, but it all worked out until now,” Williams said.

Sponsor of the new state law, Rep. David Ray said on Twitter, “Help poor people avoid unfair taxes on using plastic bags.” Ray called city ordinances like Fayetteville’s “stupid”.

Williams says the slight extra savings doesn’t outweigh the cost on the environment. “When you look at the cost to our environment,” Williams said. “The littering and the polluting and all those costs for the city as a whole. It’s much more expensive.”

Fayetteville is the only city in the state to ban single-use Styrofoam products, but it’s not the first time the city has taken the lead on big issues. “Fayetteville did the first smoking ordinance in the state and it was a giant fight,” Williams said.

But, that fight was over soon. “About a year after we did it and the state saw that the sky didn’t fall that in fact our economic development could continue and there was no big problems, then the state passed a smoking ordinance,” Williams said. “And I wish they would have given us this opportunity with both the plastic bag ordinance as well as the Styrofoam ordinance”.

Williams says when the law goes into effect, he hopes restaurants will stay the course even though the Styrofoam ban won’t be enforced. “I would hope our restaurants will do the right ecological thing and use the last thing they’ve been using for the last year or so and not go back to Styrofoam,” Williams said.