CLEVELAND — Cuyahoga County Council member Sunny Simon is getting ready to finally enforce a ban on plastic bags she helped pass at the end of 2019.
“The ban prohibits retailers from providing disposable bags at the checkout, but they may still provide recyclable paper bags and sell reusable bags,” writes a county press release from December 2019. “The new ban applies to retail stores of all types, convenience stores, grocery stores, service stations and drug stores.”
“People were really excited,” we were talking about doing things like putting old coat trees in grocery stores with reusable bags hanging on them,” said Slavic Village resident Pat Shields.
Shields has been working for years to make her community more environmentally friendly and is supportive of the plastic bag ban in Cuyahoga County.
“People were excited,” said Simon. “And then, of course, COVID hit and then everything came to a screeching halt.”
As shoppers and retailers prepared for the change, the COVID pandemic pushed the ban back. Back then, medical experts were still learning about how COVID spread and the thought was that having multiple people touch reusable bags might spread it faster.
“People were so scared and I understood that and everybody just took a step back because nobody really understood at that point what the implications were,” said Simon.
During that break, House Bill 242, which was originally introduced to prevent local plastic bag bans before the pandemic, rode public health concerns through the state senate and to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk.
The governor’s spokesperson tells News 5 DeWine signed the bill even though he generally supports local communities making their own decision, because he view it as a public health issue. The law took effect on January 15, 2021 and prevents local leaders from banning plastic bags until January 2022.
“What can I say,” asked Shields in response to that state law. “There’s a lot of things in state law that I keep writing letters about but, unfortunately, I’m not a state senator or representative.”
Simon says retailers and the county are already preparing to enforce the ban next year, but also turn their attention to other ways plastics are being used, like in straws and packaging from the increased demand for deliveries Americans have created during COVID.
“We have to change,” said Simon. “We can’t keep doing this.”
Kroeger announced that it would be phasing out all plastic bags on its own starting this year. Heinen’s tells News 5 they allow shoppers to use reusable bags after they stopped during a spike in COVID cases in the spring. They plan on re-evaluating their policies over the next few weeks after changes to COVID policies in Ohio and across the nation.
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