Minneapolis plastic bag ban halted by state lawmakers

Plastic bag
A state law has stopped Minneapolis from banning plastic carryout bags.
Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images 2014

Updated: 5:45 p.m. | Posted: 4:42 p.m.

Minneapolis' plastic carryout bag ban won't take effect Thursday after all.

The ordinance, initially passed last spring, was blocked when Gov. Mark Dayton signed a jobs bill this week with a provision preempting cities like Minneapolis from banning plastic bags.

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Dayton, a DFLer, said he was disappointed the bill contained that provision, but signed it along with eight other Republican-led budget bills to fund Minnesota state government the next two years.

City Council member Cam Gordon, a co-author of the ordinance, was disappointed in the Legislature. The Green Party member said he helped draft the ordinance in response to citizen concerns about plastic waste products in the environment.

He says the solution was well within the city's authority.

"We were acting, I think, in good faith — doing our best to manage the waste situation that we also have a responsibility to manage as a city," Gordon said. "I think the legislature overreached a little bit."

Gordon said parts of the ordinance can still go into effect. For instance, retailers who provide plastic bags can charge customers a nickel per bag. However, the city will not enforce parts of the ordinance while Gordon and other leaders find ways to make the rest of it comply with the new state law.

Bruce Nustad, president of the Minnesota Retailers Association, said the Minneapolis ban would have created a confusing patchwork, especially for businesses with stores in other parts of the state.

And, he said, it would have caused confusion for consumers.

"And if the consumer makes a decision to shop somewhere else because there is a bag ban or another local ordinance in a city versus the city that the retailer is in, that certainly has an impact," said Nustad.

Minneapolis city officials say they're exploring ways to make the ordinance compatible with state law, and they're encouraging residents to bring reusable bags when they shop.