Less than three months after the Legislature stopped Minneapolis from banning plastic bags, the City Council is preparing to attach a 5-cent fee to bags at checkout lines across the city.
The ordinance is an attempt to work within the boundaries of state law while encouraging shoppers to use reusable bags. The goal is to reduce waste, litter and processing issues at recycling facilities.
A council committee passed the ordinance unanimously at an Aug. 7 meeting. If approved by the full council Friday, the ordinance will take effect on Oct. 1.
It requires retailers to collect a fee for any bags they provide to customers, including plastic, paper, compostable and reusable bags. There are exceptions, including bags used to package bulk grocery items, dry-cleaning bags and bags used for carryout at restaurants. Customers who use public assistance to buy food won’t have to pay the fee.
The proposal has drawn opposition from groups representing bag manufacturers. The American Plastic Bag Association (APBA) has argued the fee will hurt low-income shoppers and put more money in the pockets of corporations.
“A 5-cent fee on somebody making $100,000 probably isn’t going to have that big an impact,” said APBA Executive Director Matt Seaholm. “But on somebody making $25,000, it certainly could.”
Seaholm said the APBA, which represents an industry “employing more than 24,600 American workers in more than 40 states,” according to its website, has not conducted a market analysis measuring how a bag fee in Minneapolis would impact the industry.
San Francisco, Seattle and Austin, Texas, already ban or tax plastic bags. Outside the United States, Ireland has been taxing plastic bags for years, and China bans them at checkouts.
City Council Member Cam Gordon, the chief author of Minneapolis’ bag ordinance, said he expects it to pass. But it’s possible the Legislature will try to preempt it again, he said.
“Hopefully, at least they’ll give us a few years of being able to try the fee and see what that does,” he said.