Duluth considers fee on single-use bags

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Plastic bag in a tree
MPR News file

The Duluth City Council heard nearly an hour of testimony Monday night in support of a proposal to require retailers to charge a nickel for most single-use plastic and paper bags.

The proposed ordinance is aimed at discouraging use of plastic and paper bags — although some food bags, garbage and pet bags would be exempt.

Jamie Harvie, coordinator of the Bag It Duluth campaign, encouraged the council to address three major sources of non-recyclable waste — single-use bags, straws and styrofoam to-go containers.

“We are very heartened that tonight we'll address bags and take one third of a very simple step together toward addressing the very much larger, very real threat to our life support system,” Harvie said.

City council member Zack Filipovich urged the council to think carefully about the proposed fee, since it may also have sales tax implications.

“As an accountant, I know it would put another burden on businesses trying to figure that out,” he said.

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Other council members said they hoped to vote on the measure as soon as their next meeting.

Duluth’s city council is not the first to move against single-use bags. In 2016, the Minneapolis City Council approved a ban on retailers using plastic carry out bags. But in 2017, the state Legislature passed a bill blocking outright bans on plastic bags.

According to the National Council of State legislatures, eight states have outlawed plastic bags, as have cities like Boston and Seattle. Some, like New York City, have also instituted bag fees.

What questions do you have about single-use bag policy?