After a long year of debate on whether the Newport City Council should, by ordinance, ban single use plastic check-out shopping bags, the council finally agreed that it’s best to put the issue to the voters and let THEM decide. The vote to send the issue to the May 21 ballot was unanimous.
Much of last year the issue was batted between members of a city council appointed plastic bag task force. Negotiations ended on a sour note with a mixed bag of recommendations ranging from no ban to full ban. When it landed back in the city council’s lap last fall they couldn’t make up their minds for the second time. Tuesday night, with several new members on the council, they punted. It’s now up to the voters.
If passed, local retailers that use single-use check out bags will have six months to phase them out. Some stores could get short term extensions if they haven’t run out of what they have in stock. They’ll also be required to charge five cents per paper bag used by customers in an effort to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags.
Plastic bags used in store deli’s, for grocery produce and take out food from restaurants are exempt in the proposed ordinance. Those bags are not affected.
Arguments for banning plastic bags run the gamut from filling up our landfills, littering our neighborhoods, business areas and beaches and harming wildlife. Those opposed to the ban contend the bags can be recycled if people would just cooperate. Plastic bags are convenient. Supporters also contend that reusable cloth or thick-walled plastic bags need to be cleaned between trips to the store. But because a lot of people don’t clean them, they’re a health hazard to themselves and to their fellow shoppers.
Newport voters decide the issue May 21st.