MINNEAPOLIS -- Grocery and retail customers would be charged a five cent fee for each paper or plastic bag, under an ordinance the Minneapolis City Council will consider Friday. The charge would also be applied to reusable bags when first purchased.
City Council Member Cam Gordon proposed the bag fee, after the Minnesota Legislature nullified the city's plastic bag ban before it could take effect in June.
"This ordinance is a great way to help reduce our use on single-use plastic, paper, compostable plastic," Megan Kuhl-Stennes, of Eureka Recycling, told KARE.
"All of those are resource intensive materials. This is an easy way to help manage that, help break that habit of relying on single use bags."
Opposition comes from the plastic bag industry trade group, known as the American Progressive Bag Alliance, or the APBA.
"I don’t think the average citizen is probably aware that this new bag fee they’re going to put on plastic, paper or reusable bags actually doesn’t go to some sort of public purpose or general fund," Matt Seaholm, the APBA's executive director, told KARE.
"It actually goes directly to the corporations."
He called Gordon's proposed ordinance an "end-around" of the legislature's intent, and urged state lawmakers to bar municipalities from enacting local bag fees.
"It would be great if the legislature took it upon themselves to pass a law in the next legislative session that says a pass-through charge, as council member Gordon is calling it is a fee, it’s a tax," Seaholm said, noting that Minneapolis isn't allowed to impose local taxes without consent of the Legislature.
He said a more effective strategy would be to promote the plastic bag recycling receptacles that are available at many stores in the Twin Cities metro area.
"Those stores actually get paid for collecting that and giving it back to the recyclers. There’s a market for it, and our members have invested hundreds of millions of dollars on it."
The plastic bags pose an added challenge for Eureka. Although the company doesn't recycle plastic bags, thousands of them show up at the Eureka's materials recovery center anyway because some customers wrongly believe plastic bags are accepted in the curbside recycling program.
The bags tie up the machinery, which has to be shut down for hours at a time so the twisted plastic can be cut away and cleared. Those bags, according the Kuhl-Stennes, are so contaminated they can't be sent to a plastic film recycling facility and end up instead in the waste stream.