CLEVELAND — The Cuyahoga County Council voted Tuesday evening to ban single-use plastic bags in the county, effective January 1, 2020.
This makes Cuyahoga County the first county in Ohio to ban the bags, according to the ban’s sponsor, Sunny Simon, the District 11 councilwoman. She noted that Orange Village already bans the bags.
“It’s a huge step forward and really having a vision for our next generation and understanding the perils and hazards of plastic pollution,” Simon said.
A bill at the Ohio Statehouse, which was referred to committee, could set up a fight between the state and Cuyahoga County. House Bill 242 would prevent counties in Ohio from having a ban on plastic bags or other “auxiliary containers.”
“It would be unfortunate if the state legislative body did pass a preemption of our home rule and ability to govern our own county,” Simon said. “But if it happens, we will have to move forward with other ways to protect the lake.”
Ohio’s constitution gives municipalities “home rule” authority, allowing them to come up with regulations that don’t conflict with other state laws.
During public comment, supporters of the ban urged council members not to be intimidated by the bill at the Statehouse.
“The council needs to do what is right for Cuyahoga County, regardless of what our state legislators do,” one man said.
All but three of the council members present Tuesday evening voted yes to pass the ban. One of the council members who voted against it said that while these bags are called “single-use” bags, many people reuse them.
“Have you used them for your dog droppings? I don’t know,” said Jack H. Schron, Jr., the council member for District 6. “Have you used them for your trash or your garbage of your digestible foods and items of that nature? I would think so. Have you used them as trash can liners? Probably.”
Schron said he believed people would replace those bags with heavier plastic bags if the ban went into place.
Another council member, Nan Baker, listed a number of other items that contribute to plastic waste.
“Plastic wrap and plastic sandwich bags and laundry detergent canisters and straws and bleach canisters and caps for takeout drinks,” Baker, the District 1 councilwoman, said.
Baker said it would be better for each community to decide for itself what to do.
“Who are we to dictate? That’s not local control,” Baker said. “We complain about the state. Here we are, a county, telling our cities what they will do. I don’t believe that’s democracy.”
After the ban passed with a vote of 8 to 3, Emma Shook said she believed the ban was an important first step in decreasing use of plastic.
Shook volunteers with a nonprofit called Litterbugz. She said she would encourage everyone to avoid littering and to pick up litter they see on the street.
“I feel like this plastic bag ban is not only reducing waste, but it’s helping people start thinking about the larger problem of plastics,” Shook said.
A previous version of the ban called for it to go into effect in October 2019, but the substitute version passed on Tuesday won’t go into effect until January 1, 2020. Council members said it gives retailers more time to make the change. It also includes an exemption for transporting hazardous materials.