Community democracy scores a win for the environment through the passing of Minneapolis’ plastic bag restrictions ordinance

April 2, 2016
Jim Hammerand for Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal
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The Minneapolis City Council on Friday approved an ordinance that will ban carry-out plastic bags for most retailers and add a 5 cent litter fee.
Starting June 1, 2017, customers of Minneapolis retailers will have to use paper bags instead of plastic bags. The ordinance excludes plastic bags used for dry cleaning, newspaper deliveries, and plastic bags for takeout food or that come in direct contact with food (like ones used for fresh produce).
New plastic bag rules for Minneapolis retailers take effect in 2017.
Retailers will still be able to provide recyclable paper bags, compostable plastic bags, or reusable bags.
Opponents of the new regulations cited the cost to consumers. Retailers will have to charge a litter fee of 5 cents per bag (paper, plastic or reusable) provided to a customer or pay that same fee to a litter clean-up nonprofit.
"We want to give customers incentives to bring our own reusable bags, which will reduce the waste, litter, and other negative environmental impacts of carryout bags," Council Member Cam Gordon said in a news release. Dozens of cities nationwide — as well as all of Hawaii — have some sort of plastic-bag ban, but they haven't all gone as planned. Officials in Austin, Texas, said last year that the city's ban of single-use plastic bags did cut down on litter, but didn't boost reuse as much as hoped: Many retailers shifted to paper bags, which can't be as easily reused as plastic ones, and many consumers simply replaced single-use plastic bags with thicker ones, which have an even higher carbon footprint.
Minneapolis staff will study how to implement and enforce the new rules and offer recommendations to city officials by Jan. 31, 2017.
More details on the new regulations are here. The bags listed below are excluded:
  • Bags without handles used by customers inside stores to package bulk items such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, candy, greeting cards, or small hardware items, such as nails and bolts, or to contain or wrap frozen foods, meat or fish, whether prepackaged or not, or to contain or wrap flowers or potted plants, or other items where dampness may be a problem, or to contain unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods, or to contain prescription drugs; or
  • Bags used to safeguard public health and safety during the transportation of prepared take-out foods and prepared liquids intended for consumption away from the retail establishment; or
  • Newspaper bags, door-hanger bags, laundry-dry cleaning bags, bags used to protect fine art paper, or bags sold in packages containing multiple bags intended for use as garbage, pet waste, or yard waste bags.