Plastic bag fee fails to pass Minneapolis City Council

In a 10-2 vote, a proposed ordinance that would charge shoppers a fee of five cents on paper and plastic bags in stores in Minneapolis failed to pass the city council Friday morning. The council sent the ordinance back to city staff for further review.

A proposed plastic bag ban in Minneapolis was killed during the last legislative session. The council voted last year to ban single-use plastic bags and charge fees for other bags. It was set to take effect June 1, but was stopped after a jobs bill passed by the Minnesota State Legislature stripped local governments of the ability to enact bans on plastic bags.

The ordinance would require retailers to charge a five-cent fee on plastic and paper bags, as well as the initial purchase of reusable bags. City leaders said the ordinance is aimed at reducing waste and processing issues at the city’s recycling facility.

“I hope this would allow store operators--and also consumers--to make smarter decisions and realize to protect the environment, we should start bringing our own bag,” said Cam Gordon, chair of the Health, Environment and Community Engagement Committee.

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.”

The Minneapolis bag ordinance would not be a true tax--retailers would be allowed to keep the fees to offset costs. Retailers say paper bags are more expensive to stock than plastic bags.

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, Texas, more plastic bags actually made their way through the sanitation system.