Minneapolis weighs 5-cent plastic grocery bag fee at public hearing

A customer carries a plastic grocery bag. A Minneapolis proposal would put a 5-cent fee on each bag.

A debate on the future of single-use plastic bags in the city of Minneapolis began in the City Council chambers Monday. 

The City Council asked the public to give guidance as to whether they think the city should require businesses to charge customers five cents for every single-use plastic bag.

Monday, there was overwhelming support for a citywide bag fee among the dozens in attendance, but there was some opposition. 

"We know that it's hard for humans to make changes, but let me tell you, money, including five cents, is a motivator for people to make these changes," said one commenter in support of the fee. 

"We need to take this action," said another supporter. "You have the opportunity to reduce bag consumption by tens of millions of bags per year. I hope you take it." 

The bags in question are the ones you get at the checkout counter at grocery stores. The city’s proposal would put a five cent charge on each bag to encourage people to bring their own reusable bags to the store when they shop.

"I know that change is difficult, but if you take the step to place a fee on single-use bags, I'm positive you'll quickly realize this is a win for us all," another supporter said. 

That proposal also says plastic bags make up a big portion of trash found in parks and on the side of the road.

In addition, waste collection workers spend a significant amount of time removing plastic bags that get stuck in their equipment each week.

The city also cites a survey they did with nearly 800 residents that found 67 percent of people would be more likely to bring their own bag if there was a fee.

Those opposed to the bag fee cite the negative impact it could have on businesses. 

"We have several concerns," said one opposer. "First, the competitive disadvantage created for Minneapolis businesses, we know that consumers will shop price." 

The fee would not apply to the plastic bags you see in the produce section and there wouldn’t be a charge for restaurant carryout bags or from clothing stores. Anyone who uses federal or state assistance programs would be exempt from the ordinance as well. 

The City Council approved a ban on bags in 2017, but the move was blocked by state lawmakers. 

California has a state law like the one proposed in Minneapolis. Starting in March, the state of New York will institute one as well.

A vote on the issue could come by the end of the year in Minneapolis.