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Cincinnati's plastic bag ban could make a comeback

Single-use plastic bags like these are going to be phased out by Kroger supermarkets.
Rogelio V. Solis
Single-use plastic bags like these are going to be phased out by Kroger supermarkets.

Cincinnati Council may try again to ban single-use plastic bags in places like grocery and convenience stores. A local ban was supposed to go into effect in 2021, but state lawmakers passed a bill blocking it.

Nathan Alley with Sierra Club Ohio says there's a possible workaround: the state law only prohibits charging a fee or tax to use a plastic bag, but doesn't say cities can't ban distribution. Alley spoke to Council's Climate, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee Tuesday, saying the city's ordinance can comply with state law if Council amends it to remove the 5-cent charge.

RELATED: Senate budget includes ban on plastic bag fees in Ohio communities

"Once you amend the ordinance, you're going to have to adopt what we call implementing regulations that tell the business community and others exactly how they're going to comply with it," Alley told Council members. "That's something that never really got finished the last time around."

Alley says bag bans in Cuyahoga County and the City of Bexley went into effect in 2022 and have faced no legal challenges.

"The next, and really concurrent, thing that we need to do is continue educating the public about why single use plastic bags and others are bad for the environment, bad for our communities, and why they should be using reusable bags," Alley said. He also thinks the city should distribute free reusable bags to residents.

Council Member Meeka Owens, chair of the CEI Committee, says she'll fully explore the possibility with the community and city legal department.

RELATED: Kroger says its phasing out plastic bags

"We certainly don't want this to be burdensome in any kind of way," Owens told WVXU. "But we also know that the cost benefit — the sustainability, environmental impact, the health benefit — to this certainly outweighs everything else in my opinion."

Owens says she doesn't have a timeline in mind for introducing an ordinance.

Several states have banned plastic bags, plus hundreds of cities across the country. Cincinnati-based Kroger has a plan to stop using plastic bags nationwide by 2025.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.