Bring Your Own? Minneapolis May Soon BAN Plastic Bags

On March 21st, a proposed ban on Minneapolis stores providing plastic bags and requiring stores to charge paying customers for paper bags was passed by the City Council’s Health, Environment and Community Engagement committee.  The committee voted 4-0 in favor of the measure, and it will be considered by the council as a whole in the coming weeks. The proposed ordinance was created by Councilman Cam Gordon (ward 2) and Councilman Abdi Warsame (ward 6). If enacted the ordinance will become active April 22, 2017.

The ordinance defines a “carryout bag” broadly as a, “paper or plastic bag that is provided by a retail establishment at the check stand, cash register, point of sale or other point of departure to a customer for the purpose of transporting food or merchandise out of the establishment.” To clarify, plastic bags would be banned, while recyclable bags can be provided but stores must charge no less than 5 cents per bag.

Minneapolis’ considering of the carryout bag plan is part of a broader trend that many cities are embracing, especially in cities hailed as “progressive.” Los Angeles, Seattle, Anchorage, the District of Colombia, and the State of Hawaii are among a few examples of places that have either enacted bans on certain types of carryout bags, or enacted a measure intended to limit and penalize their usage.

The purpose of Minneapolis’ proposed ban is to: “reduce litter, waste, lifecycle environmental impacts, and negative impacts on recycling facilities of single-use bags, and incentivize Minneapolis consumers to use reusable bags. ”

Minneapolis’ proposed ban paired with the national trend raises the question, just how environmentally friendly are these bans?  According to Market Watch, some reusable bags that customers will utilize in lieu of the carryout bags at stores have to be utilized 100 times before they are considered better for the environment and roughly only 5% of reusable bags are recycled at the end of their lifespan.

In addition, a study completed by AECOM, a professional technical services and management organization, found that reusable bags also have adverse effects on the environment. Market Watch reports: “It cited the short and long term adverse effects to marine ecosystems, solid waste management, global resource consumption and litter.”

NPR points out that not all reusable bags are made equally.  Some are of much higher quality, like those that are organic and fair-trade, while others are full of plastic and are made in china.  The quality of the re-usable bag directly affects how environmentally friendly they are.

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