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Cuyahoga County Bag Ban Fines Delayed Until July

 After July 1, retailers handing out plastic bags are subject to a $100 fine after a warning. The fine jumps to $500 for a second infraction. [Gayle S. Putrich / ideastream]
reusable bag stuffed full of plastic bags

Cuyahoga County Council officially passed a grace period for the ban on plastic bags at a special meeting Thursday morning.

Only violations that occur on or after July 1 will be subject to penalty, which is a $100 fine after a warning and a $500 fine for a second infraction.

The ban technically goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020 but no fines will be issued for the first six months. The City of Cleveland already decided to delay adoption of Cuyahoga County’s ban on retail plastic bags until July 1.

Pittsburgh-based grocery store chain Giant Eagle announced Wednesday that its stores will stop using single-use plastic bags at its grocery stores in Cuyahoga County beginning Jan. 1.

Councilwoman Sunny Simon, who sponsored the county’s plastic bag ban said Giant Eagle’s plan to eliminate plastic bag use by 2025 was probably influenced by legislation like hers.

“It's pretty exciting that our work here, I think, had helped them make that decision to move forward with this and we think other retailers are going to follow,” Simon said.

Council's Jack Schron and Nan Baker questioned the county’s provision calling for bags to be 40 percent recycled content and 100 percent recyclable, saying some paper bags currently used by grocers might not comply.

“They can't just change to paper bags and think they have met the requirement,” Baker said “Also, there's been some question about whether you can charge for a paper bag if the plastic is completely banned.”

Charging for paper bags is up to the individual retailer and the content specifics in the ordinance could be adjusted for other sustainable products, Simon said.

“It's just making sure that what's being provided, including hemp, is going to be as sustainable as possible,” Simon said. “And we are contemplating hopefully a hemp product, bringing some kind of industry here to help with this.”

Concern over the composition of the bag did not come up in roundtable discussions with grocers and retailers while drafting the rules, Simon said, but she also said she happy to answer questions personally before July 1.

The Ohio House passed a ban on municipalities banning single-use plastics earlier this month and that bill now heads to the state Senate.

Glenn Forbes is supervising producer of newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.