• Wed. Aug 12th, 2020

Legislation proposed to ban (plastic) bags in Cincinnati

Citizens rallied March 4 on the steps of Cincinnati City Hall calling for a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags in Cincinnati. Community activist Brian Garry is at the podium. Photo by Miyone Gongora

By Herald Staff 

City Councilman Chris Seelbach proposed legislation at Wednesday’s council meeting that would remove single-use bags from food retail establishments beginning in January 1, 2021, replacing them with sturdier reusable bags or recycled paper content bags. A 5-cent per bag minimum charge would be established on July 1, 2021, for replacement bags. 

Businesses still offering single-use plastic bags after January 1, 2021 could be fined up to $100 per day.

After taking in the considerations of everyone from local businesses to lower income residents, the law has been designed to ensure businesses can cover any costs of compliance while also exempting food stamps and other nutritional assistance users from any additional charge, ensuring families in poverty receive no added burden,’’ Seelbach said. “These thoughtful aspects to the legislation have helped garner the support of the nation’s largest grocery chain, Cincinnati’s own Kroger Co. 

In a statement, Kroger stated their support for the legislation. “In 2018, Kroger became the first major US retailer to announce a phase out of single-use plastic bags at check out. Our commitment supports Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste social impact plan and recognizes we have a responsibility to reduce unnecessary plastic waste that harms our environment and endangers our ecosystem. Kroger supports the City of Cincinnati’s proposal to accelerate this work.” 

Councilmember Seelbach has pledged to at least a month’s worth of dialogue before calling for a vote on the proposal. 

More than 70 environmental activists led by Brian Garry of Neighborhoods United, came together on the steps of Cincinnati City Hall on March 4 to encourage the transition from thin, single-use plastic shopping bags to reusable tote bags in Cincinnati.

Several leaders of the Past Plastic Coalition spoke. Local organizations have endorsed the idea of converting to reusable bags including Communities United for Action in Sour Cumminsville, the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, the Mill Creek Alliance, and Shomrei Olam a Jewish Environmental organization.  

They drew attention to the problems of thin, single-use, grocery style” plastic bags. Showing off what they considered the solution, some displayed the thicker reusable tote bags made from recycled plastic or cotton. One young man, aka the bag monster, wore a costume made entirely of grocery bags.  

Plastic bags and other plastic debris cover this beach, causing harm to wildlife. Photo by reusethisbag.com

Single-use plastic bags have turned into anenvironmental disaster. It takes 12 million barrels of oil to make the 100 billion bags US consumers use annually, Garry said. The average use of a single-use plastic bag is 12 minutes, but it takes 1,000 years to degrade. He also stated that the bags clog our sewers causing back-ups and property damage, as well as hurting birds and marine wildlife, including turtles and whales. 

Over the last several years, Hamilton County Solid Waste District enacted a campaign to keep the bags out of curbside recycling because they clog the recycling machinery causing expensive shut downs.  

According to Lew Ebstein of Shomrei Olam, we can all choose reusable bags and make a difference. Some problems, he says, are so large and so pervasive that they require government intervention, like a ban on single-use plastic bags. 1 million bags per minute are used worldwide, he said.  

As a solution, retailers were encouraged to supply reusable bags to their customers. The Kroger Company has agreed to provide $10,000 worth of reusable bags. Garry supporter Dr. Laura Ann Weaver, is purchasing 4,000 reusable bags to be distributed in lower income neighborhoods in Cincinnati.  

Citizens were encouraged to email city council members and/or to testify at upcoming city council meetings while this important environmental ordinance is being considered. 

Garry said, “It is time for Cincinnati to join other cities such as Denver, Chicago, Baltimore and Philadelphia and be among the hundreds of counties and municipalities that have already transitioned to environmentally-friendly reusable bags,’’ 

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