Minneapolis will try another way to attack plastic bag use after state lawmakers blocked the city’s ban.
Council Member Cam Gordon notified fellow council members Friday that he is going to introduce a new bag ordinance and hopes to have council members vote on it by the end of this summer or early fall.
Gordon wants to require stores to charge a fee for any type of bag — paper or plastic — they give out. The fee would likely be 5 or 10 cents per bag, he said. That cost and other aspects of the regulation are up for debate.
“Everybody was so close to being ready for the other ordinance,” he said, referring to more than a year of community input and debate on the topic. “I expect this to be on a relatively fast track.”
Stores citywide were preparing to do away with plastic bags and charge a 5-cent paper bag fee on June 1 under a new ordinance. Then the Legislature stepped in and blocked the ban the day before it was set to take effect.
The bill’s chief author, Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, said the final version was a compromise that left out language that would have blocked cities from charging such a fee. He said he would be willing to consider legislation next session to block bag fees.
Nash said he would prefer to see communities educate shoppers about recycling rather than charge them money.
A fee per bag, he said, is “another way to fiddle with consumer choice.”
Other communities have been watching how Minneapolis handles the state’s action.
“We have been just waiting until the dust settles from the recent legislation,” said Jamie Harvie, coordinator for Bag It Duluth, an advocacy group that also wants to cut down on the number of plastic bags shoppers take home. Supporters packed the Duluth City Council chambers a couple of months ago to support a bag ban, he said.
“That interest isn’t going away. Now it’s just what form does it take?” Harvie said of the potential city regulation.
Minneapolis is contemplating the same question, and Gordon anticipates many pieces of the former ordinance will remain in place. The previous regulation required people to pay 5 cents for paper bags, but people who receive public assistance were exempt from the fee.
The bag fees would go back to the retailers — a model that has been popular on the West Coast because store owners get to recoup bag costs, Gordon said.
While the city is working through ordinance details, some businesses are already moving ahead with a fee.
The Eastside Food Co-op stopped offering plastic bags about a year ago and on June 1 started charging 5 cents for paper bags, in part because it expected the city would retool its ordinance, said John Lacaria, interim general manager.
“We’ve had some feedback that people don’t appreciate the bag charge, particularly because not every business in the Twin Cities is doing the same thing. But we’ve also had a lot of support from customers who basically said, ‘It’s about time,’ ” Lacaria said. “It ends up being a big deal for a little while, and then everyone kind of moves on with their life.