Plastic bags won’t be banned in Minneapolis after all.
Among the 10 budget bills Gov. Mark Dayton signed Tuesday was one containing a provision, co-authored by Republican legislators, prohibiting cities from banning any type of bag — paper, plastic or reusable. The state prohibition took effect Wednesday, one day before Minneapolis’ ban was supposed to begin.
The City Council passed an ordinance banning plastic bags last year, and retailers have been preparing for it. The ordinance would have prohibited stores from providing plastic bags, with some exceptions, and implemented a 5-cent fee for paper bags for all customers except those using public assistance to buy food.
Council Member Cam Gordon, the ordinance’s chief author, said he was disappointed by the Legislature’s action but thought there might be a way for the city to implement portions of the ordinance.
“Right now, I think we’re taking a pause to review the language and look at the ordinance and see if there might be a pathway forward to still better regulate single-use bags and comply with state law,” he said.
Minneapolis was far from the first city to try to curb usage of plastic bags. Several U.S. cities, including Austin, San Francisco and Seattle, already ban or tax plastic bags. Elsewhere around the world, Ireland has been taxing plastic bags for years and China bans them at checkouts.
In a news release Wednesday afternoon, the Minneapolis city officials encouraged people to still bring their own bags on shopping trips and cited statistics about the environmental effect of plastic bags, including the fact that most plastic bags in Minneapolis end up in the garbage burner downtown.
Over the past year, the ordinance banning plastic bags drew a lot of attention from environmental groups, retailers and lobbyists for the plastic bag industry.
Supporters of the ban pointed to a range of environmental concerns, from the resources it takes to make plastic bags to the problems they create when recycled incorrectly.
Opponents argued a ban would put pressure on retailers and ultimately hurt consumers.
The Minnesota Grocers Association was among the groups that lobbied for the prohibition on bag bans, saying differing regulations across the state would be problematic for grocery stores large and small.
“We certainly are pleased that the Legislature acknowledged the challenges of patchwork, city-by-city ordinances when it comes to the bags at checkout,” said Jamie Pfuhl, the association’s executive director.
The state prohibition of the plastic bag ban was one of a few legislative efforts this session to pre-empt Minneapolis ordinances, and the only one to get the governor’s signature.
Dayton did not sign the broader “pre-emption bill,” which would have blocked the proposed $15 minimum wage and the city’s paid sick-leave ordinance.
Emma Nelson • 612-673-4509