In The News / Recycling

Bag Plastic Bags in Cuyahoga County

Guest Blogger

Cuyahoga County Council Members Simon and Miller introduced Carryout Bag Fee legislation in October 2017. Included in the proposed Ordinance No. O2017-0006 is a ten-cent per bag fee designed to discourage the use of single-use plastic and paper bags and create an environmental remediation fund for cleaning up beaches and waterways as outlined in the legislation. Fees would also be used to support the enforcement of the legislation. While the legislation is still being considered by the County Council, Cuyahoga County residents can review the way this type of legislation has worked in other areas across the United States.

The following major U.S. cities are examples of municipalities that have implemented plastic bag fees: Brownsville, TX, Montgomery County, MD, New York, NY, Portland, ME, and Washington, D.C. One benefit of charging a fee for bags instead of banning bags altogether is reduced use of all bag types including paper and thicker plastic that might be considered reusable dependent upon the plastic thickness. Similar to Cuyahoga County, Montgomery County, MD has just over 1 million residents. Montgomery County’s bag fee was instituted in 2012 and included a five-cent fee per bag. Between February 2012 and August 2015, Montgomery County collected nearly 8.5 million dollars in bag fees. They have also noted a reduction in the number of plastic bags captured at fifteen stream sites throughout the county each year since the plastic bag fee was implemented.

Examples of cities banning plastic bags are Chicago, IL, Los Angeles, CA, San Francisco, CA, and Seattle, WA. California has the country’s first statewide plastic bag ban instituted in 2015. Seattle’s bag ban was implemented in July 2017 and includes a ban on plastic shopping bags that are less than 2.25 mils thick as well as plastic produce bags. The ban does include a five-cent fee for paper bags to relieve retailers of the cost of increased paper bag use as paper bags can cost retailers at least double the price of plastic bags. San Jose, CA has tracked the amount of plastic bags found in their storm drain system since their ban began in 2011 and found an 89% decrease in plastic bag pollution.

Plastic bags are not biodegradable which means that discarded plastic bags are destined to become litter, water pollution, or landfill material. They are also not recyclable through curbside recycling programs. While we wait for the passage of our own plastic bag fee legislation in Cuyahoga County you can recycle clean plastic bags at a variety of retail collection locations.

Better yet, remember to take a reusable bag to the grocery store as well as the drug store, clothing retailer, and home improvement store to name a few, and contact your county council person to voice your opinion on the legislation.

About the Author

Emily Roll is a certified Master Recycler in Cuyahoga County. She earned the title in 2016 after completing the Solid Waste District’s required coursework and volunteering. Emily resides on the west side of Cleveland.