Duluth groups launch campaign to ban plastic bags

A group of businesses and community groups in Duluth is urging the city to dispose of plastic bags and plastic foam food containers in favor of more environmentally friendly options.

The "Bag It, Duluth - For the Love of Place" campaign is calling for a city-wide ordinance that would phase in a ban on single-use, plastic carry-out bags and polystyrene containers used for take-out food. The proposal calls for a ban to be enacted over a one-year period.

The model ordinance the campaign has developed calls for retailers to institute a small charge of at least five cents for paper bags.

Campaign coordinator Jamie Harvie said in other cities that's helped increase the reusable bag rate by 80 percent or more.

"This effort is really geared at changing behavior," he said. "Humans are creatures of habit, and we don't change behaviors easily."

The group proposes several exemptions, including a waiver of the minimum bag charge for people receiving public assistance.

The campaign is motivated in part by recent studies that have shown large amounts of plastic pollution in Lake Superior and the Great Lakes.

Minneapolis is currently the only city in the state that bans plastic bags. St. Louis Park prohibits polystyrene food containers, and St. Paul is considering a similar rule.

Harvie said some 160 communities around the U.S. have taken similar measures.

"What we're suggesting isn't cutting edge, actually, what we're suggesting is really coming up to speed to where the more environmentally conscious outdoor cities already are," Harvie said.