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Cleveland May Delay County Bag Ban For City Stores

[Gansstock / Shutterstock]
Plastic bags at a supermarket bakery

Cuyahoga County’s ban on plastic bags could go forward next year without the county’s largest city on board.

Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley introduced legislation Monday night that would delay the ban in the city while a working group discusses prohibitions on disposable bags. The working group would propose a city-wide ban by 2021, with plans to implement it by 2022.

“I am proposing the same end, but that we get there through a process of community building, stakeholder buy-in and a thoughtful implementation,” Kelley told ideastream. “That will take some time—the exact time to be determined—but I think that’s going to take at least a year.”

Council will likely vote on the measure Dec. 2, the body’s last regular meeting before the countywide ban goes into effect Jan 1, 2020. On Monday, the county announced a six-month grace period before retailers face fines for distributing plastic bags.

Supporters of the county’s bag ban responded with frustration to Kelley’s move. Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Sunny Simon, who sponsored the countywide ban that passed in May, called the city legislation an unnecessary step that undermines the county’s efforts.

“Coming in at the midnight hour to delay and continue to talk about this issue certainly would not be a positive for the city of Cleveland or the rest of the county,” she said in a phone interview Monday.

Cuyahoga County will move forward with its bag ban, even if Cleveland chooses to delay participating, Simon said.

City council members debated Kelley’s proposal at a Monday evening caucus meeting. Councilman Matt Zone argued against passing Kelley’s legislation before the end of the year.

“We have a moral imperative to leave this planet better than we inherit it,” Zone said, “and by us delaying this, what type of message are we trying to send to our constituency?”

But Kelley appeared to have support from several members, including Councilman Blaine Griffin.

“Nobody is saying that plastic bags are good,” Griffin said, arguing the city should examine how the ban will impact businesses and customers in Cleveland. “Those are some of the things that we need to look at, and do our due diligence.”

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.