City leaders considering single-use plastic bag ban


Minneapolis could become the first city in the state to ban single-use plastic bags at the checkout line.

City Council Members Cam Gordon (Ward 2) and Abdi Warsame (Ward 6) have proposed the “Bring Your Own Bag” ordinance — a measure designed to reduce waste and ease the burden on one-sort recycling facilities. Plastic bags wrap around recycling sorting machines, prompting them to shut down.

A public hearing has been set for March 21 at City Hall before the City Council’s Health, Environment & Community Engagement Committee.

The ordinance includes several exemptions and allows plastic bags for newspapers, pet waste, dry cleaning, produce bags without handles and reusable plastic bags of a certain thickness.

The ordinance would also place a 5-cent fee on single-use paper bags at grocery stores and other retailers.

“We are trying to address some concerns about litter and waste in the city, but there is also some bigger impacts about greenhouse gas emissions and pollution,” Gordon said.

The St. Louis Park City Council also considered a plastic bag ban last year, but ultimately shelved the idea in favor of a Zero Waste Packaging Ordinance. Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, food establishments will be required to use packaging that is reusable, returnable, recyclable or compostable for takeout food.

The Minneapolis City Council passed a ban on polystyrene take-out containers that went into effect April 22, 2015.

As currently drafted, Gordon and Warsame’s “Bring Your Own Bag” ordinance would have a phased-in implementation in 2017 if approved by the City Council.

More than 160 U.S. cities have passed a single-use plastic bag ban and or fee for disposable carryout bags, including Seattle, Portland and Washington, D.C. California’s legislature was the first in the nation to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at larger retailers in August 2015. The ban went into effect in July 2015.

Minnesotans throw away 87,000 tons of plastic bags each year, according to a fact sheet on Gordon and Warsame’s proposed ordinance. In Minneapolis, most of those plastic bags wind up at the downtown garbage burner.

Bruce Nustad, president of the Minnesota Retailers Association, said the organization hasn’t taken a formal position on the proposed plastic bag ban in Minneapolis.

Nustad said he hopes city leaders are as open to conversation about a potential plastic bag ban as leaders were in St. Louis Park. 

He noted that many local retailers are leading efforts to recycle plastic bags. Lunds & Bylerys, for instance, has plastic bag recycling drop-off boxes at many store locations.


Upcoming meeting

City Council Member Cam Gordon (Ward 2) will discuss the proposed “Bring Your Own Bag” ordinance Friday, Feb. 19, 2–2:30 p.m., at an Uptown Association meeting at Calhoun Square, second floor in the former Republic space.