As I’m sure you’ve heard, a citywide bag ordinance went into effect on January 1st of this year, which requires retailers to charge five cents for each bag used by the shopper. While enforcement by city officials is not scheduled to occur until June, most shoppers and retailers are already abiding by the change. That is not to say, however, that there haven’t been mixed feelings toward the new policy.
The ordinance was implemented with the goal of reducing single-use plastic consumption and making a push toward more environmentally-friendly city practices. Single-use plastics are polluting our waterways and contaminating the natural landscape as they leach chemicals for years on end. Reducing plastic bag waste will also increase recycling efficiency. Prior to the ordinance, plastic bag entangements could clog recycling facility machinery for upwards of four hours every day. The transition to the new bag ordinance has been done with “an emphasis on education, rather than punishment,” according to local paper The Star Tribune. There are some exceptions to the ordinance, including those for farmer’s markets and low-income shoppers using SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
Some shoppers are not happy about paying for something they used to receive for free.
“It’s another form of sucking people into becoming some type of an activist for the environment and trying to control the masses,” one shopper, Megan Bacigalupo, told CBS Minnesota. Others are concerned about the lack of privacy for low-income shoppers.
“When that [WIC or SNAP transaction] goes through, the cashiers don’t know what’s happening. It’s a seamless transaction,” said Jamie Pfuhl, president of the Minnesota Grocers Association. “So unfortunately now, a WIC or SNAP recipient is going to have to identify that that’s what the transaction is, and that’s against what we’re trying to achieve there.”
These criticisms point out that, like anything else, no policy is perfect. That’s not to say, however, there hasn’t been overwhelming positive feedback toward the bag fee as well.
“If we are truly concerned about the greater biodiversity on our planet right now at a time when so much is being threatened, it behooves us to do this,” commented Cathy Geist, a biology professor at MCTC. Reduction of biodiversity, or the variety of life in a particular ecosystem, is one of the major consequences of climate change. These reductions can have profound impacts and can lead to severe, even irreparable ecosystem damage.
“It’s hard to change patterns, right? But once you understand the reasoning behind it and we’ve come a few times, forgot a bag, pay extra for a bag, then you start to remember, right? And it becomes a culture,” shopper Charles Dennis said.
This bag ordinance is the perfect catalyst for a cultural shift, starting right here in Minneapolis. Little actions can become powerful when initiated by the masses. Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword. Rather, it’s about making lots of small changes, the results of while accumulate to create a bigger impact. When we pitch in, and encourage our neighbors to do the same, we can have a remarkable impact on the planet and the generations to come.