Customers in Minneapolis will need to bring their own bags or start paying a nickel for each bag they get from a retailer as the city resumes a shopping bag fee starting Oct. 1.
Minneapolis enacted an ordinance in January 2020 requiring customers to pay 5 cents for any single-use plastic, compostable, paper and reusable bags provided by stores, but delayed enforcement of the practice two months later with the onset of the pandemic over concerns the coronavirus could spread on surfaces and objects.
"The city did not want to place retailers in the position where they need to prioritize compliance over public health," said city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie.
But now the fee is coming back.
Signs at the four Lunds & Byerlys stores in Minneapolis went up last week informing customers they will be charged when the calendar flips to October.
"We are prepared to begin the bag fee," said Aaron Sorenson, a spokesman for the local grocery store chain. "We share the city's concern for the environment. We encourage customers to use reusable bags."
Before the ordinance took place, about 5% of Lunds & Byerlys customers used reusable bags, Sorenson said. The chain through its Reuse and Reward Program donates 5 cents to Second Harvest Heartland for every reusable bag customers use. The store has donated more than $700,000 to the food bank since the program started in 2008.
"Encouraging people to use reusable bags has been important to us for many years," Sorenson said.
The city enacted the ordinance last year to help reduce waste and litter from collecting in storm drains and tree branches, and to prevent clogging of equipment used to process recycling.
"Five cents does not bother most people," said Jason Barto, a clerk at the 8th Street Market at 630 SE. 8th St. About half of his customers ask for plastic bags, he said.
"I think it very good idea," he said of the fee. "It prevents people from using bags. It's easy to carry a few things."
Few customers have pushed back about the fee, which the store never stopped charging, he said.
Others were not quite as thrilled retailers were collecting the fee while the moratorium was in place.
"It seems a little sleazy to me that these companies are collecting bag fees when it's not required and deceptively presenting it to customers as if the fee is required by the city," Patrick Timmons wrote in an e-mail to the Star Tribune after he was charged this week at Target and Walgreens stores in Uptown.
Retailers are not required to give discounts to customers for bringing their own bags. Retailers ready to move forward were free to implement a bag surcharge ahead of the city-mandated enforcement date, McKenzie said.
Carryout bags include any plastic, compostable, paper and reusable bags provided by the store. Fees will not be charged for bags distributed for produce, bulk items, meats, baked goods, flowers or prescriptions. The nickel fee will not apply at restaurants or businesses such as salons or dry cleaners where sales are a secondary activity or at farmers markets and temporary events, the city said in a news release.
Customers participating in a federal or state food assistance program will not be charged, the city said.
"The surcharge is intended as a pass-through so that retailers may replenish their supply of single-use bags," McKenzie said.
In the two months while the ordinance was in effect, Sorenson said Lunds & Byerlys saw a decline in the use of paper and plastic bags. Barto said he thought the fee could go even further. "Charge 10 cents for large bags," he said.
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768