City Council passes ban on single-use plastic bags

The Minneapolis City Council voted 10-3 on Friday to ban city retailers from offering customers single-use plastic bags.

The “Bring Your Own Bag” ordinance, authored by City Council Members Cam Gordon and Abdi Warsame, requires retailers to offer recyclable paper, compostable or reusable bags for 5 cents. As amended, the ordinance will go into effect June 1, 2017.

The Council also approved an amendment to the ordinance that allows businesses to donate the 5-cent fee toward litter cleanup efforts in the city. City staff have also been directed to report back to the Council by Jan. 31, 2017 with information about the financial impacts to the city and businesses to implement the ordinance.

City Council President Barb Johnson (Ward 4) voted against the ordinance along with Council Members Blong Yang (Ward 5) and John Quincy (Ward 11).

Johnson predicted the ban would increase the cost of groceries in the city because paper bags are more expensive than plastic bags. She also said shoppers will likely go to stores outside of Minneapolis for the convenience of using plastic bags.

“It’s really all about people’s bottom line,” she said.

The Council also passed a measure offered by Council President Johnson that would create a new comprehensive recycling program for plastic bags and thin film plastics.

In Minneapolis, many plastic bags end up at the downtown garbage burner. They also are a major source of litter and get caught in gears at the single-sort recycling facilities.

“Let’s take this simple incremental step toward having a zero-waste city,” Warsame said before the Council vote.

Plastic bags exempted from the ban include bags for newspapers, takeout food, dry cleaning, produce and those sold in packages for garbage, pet and yard waste.

Following the Council’s vote, Lee Califf, executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), issued a statement critical of the ordinance.  

“By approving this bill, the Minneapolis City Council put politics above smart policymaking,” Califf said. “This law will not only be ineffective in helping Minneapolis achieve sustainability goals, it will hurt hardworking low- and middle-class families whose grocery bills are already too expensive as well as small businesses that will face more burdens and red tape.”