In 2019, the City of Minneapolis adopted an ordinance to charge five cents for single-use plastic or paper bags, which became effective Jan. 1, 2020. Earth Circle, a group in Itasca County, is working toward these efforts locally.
Patricia Helmberger, co-chair of Earth Circle’s BYOBag Committee, explained that the group will be approaching the Grand Rapids City Council as soon as 500 signatures are reached on their petition.
“We [will be] asking the City Council to pass a five cent fee on plastic and paper bags. Minneapolis recently began a fee on both plastic and paper bags. Duluth will begin theirs on plastic bags in the spring,” Helmberger stated. “We are including paper bags because their production has a high environmental footprint and because stores might have to purchase more of them if they are not included in the fee.”
She continued, “We are asking people to sign a petition requesting the city council consider our fee proposal.”
Barb Veit is co-chair with Helmberger.
According to online news sources, exceptions include bags used for produce, bulk foods, small items, carryout restaurants, farmers markets, food banks, retail establishments that do not possess a cash register, second-hand bags, bags sold in packages, dry cleaning bags, bags given out with no transaction, bags given at hospitals, car dealerships and car washes and bags used for litter cleanup.
“We believe our community will be a cleaner, more environmentally friendly place to live and shop. Earth Circle has distributed, free of charge, thousands of reusable bags along with information about plastic pollution in the past six years,” Helmberger said. “Many shoppers are aware of the long term problems that have damaged the earth and will welcome the opportunity to be the third city in Minnesota to insist on a fee to reduce plastic pollution.”
Their hopes are great community pride as they join a global movement to combat the plastic deluge.
“If the fees become law, we anticipate push back from some businesses and individuals but Earth Circle will help in every way possible to make the transition easy by providing reusable bags to shoppers who don’t have them,” Helmberger said.
“We have no plans to go to other councils but hope our move will inspire other communities to follow our lead,” Helmberger stated. “This is going to take a while and we want to have a well orchestrated plan before we go to our council with lots of signatures on our petition.”
The City of Deer River, according to City Administrator Mark Box, has not discussed this issue yet.
“As far as I know, this topic has never come before the city council,” said Box.
Yet Tom Pagel, Grand Rapids City Administrator, stated, “The city does not believe it’s their role to regulate consumer goods. This should be done at the state level.”
No response was heard from the city of Cohasset.
As of Friday, Jan. 24, Earth Circle had 200 signatures on their petition. They do not plan to go to the Grand Rapids City Council until spring and plan to ask for grants from local foundations to purchase reusable bags.
“People are eager to sign the petition. They know the environmental damage of toxic plastic chemicals that are all around us and would like to join the rest of the world in reducing them,” Helmberger said. “We will be gathering signatures door-to-door as well as meeting with groups in our area to solicit their support.”
Helmberger added, “There is a lot of work yet to be done and we want to be sure we do it well.”