City passes plastic bag ordinance

To reduce the litter, waste, environmental impacts and expense of managing carryout bags, the City Council has approved an ordinance to regulate the use of plastic carryout bags in retail establishments. The new ordinance takes effect on June 1, 2017. Solid Waste and Recycling, Licenses and Community Services, Regulatory Services, and Health Department staff will report back to the Health, Environment and Community Engagement Committee by Jan. 31, 2017, with recommendations for implementing and enforcing the ordinance.

Key features of the ordinance include:

Certain types of plastic bags will be exempt from the prohibition, including bags that come into direct contact with food, takeout food bags, and specialized types of bags, for instance for newspapers or dry cleaning.

Plastic carryout bags have significant impacts on the environment and waste stream. These impacts include litter, waste generation and the expense of managing them at recycling facilities.

o   In 2002, 50 to 80 million bags in the U.S. ended up as litter.
o   Once plastic enters the environment, it never leaves; the pieces just become smaller and smaller.

o   Minnesotans throw away 87,000 tons of plastic bags every year.
o   In Minneapolis, most plastic bags end up in the downtown garbage burner.
o   In the U.S., less than 5 percent of standard HDPE plastic bags are recycled while more than 49 percent of paper bags are.
o   All bags require energy to make, create waste, and cause greenhouse gas emissions and air and water pollution.
o   Plastic carryout bags create 9 pounds of solid waste, 18 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions and 2 pounds of water pollution per 10,000 uses.
o   Plastic bags that end up in recycling facilities are not recycled.

o   Plastic bags wrap around sorting machines, requiring the sorting line to be shut down several times each day.

Many communities across the country and the world have adopted laws to address the impacts created by carryout bags. More than 160 U.S. cities have enacted carryout bag bans and/or fees, including Aspen, Colo.; Austin, Texas; Cambridge, Mass.; Chicago; Dallas; Los Angeles; Monterey, Calif.; Oakland, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; Richmond, Va.; San Francisco, Santa Fe, N.M.; Seattle and Washington. The state of Hawaii has banned plastic carryout bags. Many countries – including Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Somalia – have banned plastic bags, and many more countries have carryout bag fees.

The plastic bag ordinance helps move the City toward zero waste.

Published Apr 5, 2016

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