Minneapolis council hears from both sides on plastic bag ban

Minneapolis City Council members are getting an earful from both sides ahead of a vote Friday on a revised ‘Bring Your Own Bag’ ordinance. Shoppers would face a fee of five cents on paper and plastic bags in stores in Minneapolis - with a few exceptions.

The debate has drawn national interest, with groups from the paper and plastics industries sending representatives to City Hall to discuss the issue with officials.

“It's where the money's going and who it's affecting the most,” said Matt Seaholm, Executive Director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance. “That's what I'm here for and that's why I'm talking about this.”

This new battle comes just months after a plastic bag ban in Minneapolis was stopped in its tracks. State lawmakers barred local communities from instituting bag bans, but left open the possibility for taxes or fees.

“It’s a new tax,” said Seaholm, whose group was part of a coalition who lobbied state lawmakers for the change. “They’re calling it a pass-through charge, but it is for all intents and purposes, a tax.”

But local environmental groups are not backing down from the fight.

“It’s a very narrow economic interest that’s working in opposition to these bans and fees. We believe that our local community supports it,” said Forrest Theisen, with Linden Hills Power and Light, a local non-profit. “ We think that we deserve the right as a local community to pass ordinances that protect our community.”

Volunteers with Linden Hills Power and Light will gather once again later this month to make reusable bags out of fabric, and then give them away for free.

Both sides also disagree on how effective the ordinance would be in reducing waste. In some cities, waste has gone down. In other cities, such as Austin, more plastic bags actually made their way through the sanitation system.