Plastic grocery bags are a fixture in nearly every home in America. Hidden in cupboards, stuffed inside of one another, filling random drawers—no matter whose house it is, it’s a safe bet to assume that they’ve got at least a couple floating around.
But if you’ve visited Market District since spring semester began, you’ve probably noticed something that seems a bit strange: there aren’t any plastic bags by the checkouts.
Last April, Bexley City Council passed an ordinance banning retailers from providing single-use bags within city limits, and it went into effect Jan. 1. So far, community responses have been very, very positive according to Troy Markham, a city councilman and member of the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee (ESAC).
The initiative was prompted in part by community suggestions.
“Consumers are pushing for these measures,” Markham said. “Hopefully, our action can help to push the rest of the state.”
On average, each person in the United States uses 365 grocery bags a year, for a combined total of over 100 billion. Only 10 percent of these are properly recycled; the rest end up in landfills, alongside the road, caught in tree branches, or in the ocean.
That’s a staggering amount of waste, especially since each bag is only used, on average, for 12 minutes (including possible instances of reuse).
And indeed, there does seem to be a demand for change.
Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland, has also restricted single-use plastics, as have eight other states, including California and New York. A Twitter poll run by The Chimes poll that 79 percent of respondents at Capital agree with Bexley’s new policy, and 75 percent believe that it will positively impact the environment.
But efforts to limit plastic consumption in Ohio are facing a major roadblock in the form of state government. House Bill 242 would authorize the use of all auxiliary containers throughout the state, eliminating the regulatory power of municipalities. Basically, if the bill is signed into law, Bexley’s bag ban and all others throughout the state would become invalid.
The bill’s sponsors argue that limiting the use of plastic bags is bad for business and places excessive burdens on consumers.
But in Bexley, Markham said, every effort was made to institute the ban as smoothly as possible.
“We are not anti-business, and we didn’t want to create an ‘us vs. them’ environment,” he said.
In order to ensure this, he said that City Council met several times with the retailers that would be affected, primarily Giant Eagle’s Market District and CVS. The involved parties worked out an agreement, compromising where necessary; exceptions were made, for instance, when representatives from Market District voiced concerns about meat and produce.
And Bexley is taking steps to make sure that everyone is well-equipped with reusable cloth bags. In the near future, Markham says, bags will be developed with a city logo and they will be distributed free of charge to all residents.
Also, there are two locations, one outside of City Hall and one inside Market District, where consumers can grab or donate a bag. Although these currently take the form of storage totes, they will be replaced with permanent cedar fixtures.
It seems like the only hardship consumers are worried about is the necessity of remembering their reusable bags—the poll revealed that 65 percent of students have little faith in their own memories.