Cincinnati bans single-use plastic

WRITTEN BY: Alex Budzynski, Managing Editor

Photo courtesy of @greenish_living on Twitter

The Cincinnati City Council voted 7-1 on Sept. 9, passing an ordinance that bans single-use plastic bags for businesses in the city. 

Starting Jan. 1, 2021, brick-and-mortar restaurants and food-service establishments will not be allowed to offer single-use plastic bags. Customers will instead be encouraged to bring reusable bags for their items. They also have the option to purchase a paper, plastic or cloth bag for five cents, a charge that will be absorbed into the customer’s total.

The law was introduced by Congressman Chris Seelbach, who initially proposed the initiative in March, prior to the pandemic. Over the summer, a clause was added to the law that allows the ban to be lifted during a state of emergency, such as the one in effect because of COVID-19.   

This ordinance is also not the first of its kind, as Cincinnati joins 400 other cities and eight states that have passed similar regulations.

“Modeled after the best programs in the nation, we can clean up our streets, sewers and streams and provide excellent reusable options to customers, all while protecting our lower-income households,” Seelbach said of the law’s potential.

The legislation has a few exceptions. Namely, temporary vendors and farmers’ markets will still be permitted to use single-use plastic. Additionally, low-income customers who use food stamps or other government aid will not be required to pay for their bags.  

Nonetheless, the lone dissenter on the Council — Republican Councilwoman Betsy Sundermann — expressed concerned that this new regulation would further strain small businesses.  

“The businesses are still required to give them reusable bags, so that will put extra burden on small business owners in low-income communities,” she said

The Cincinnati Health Department will enforce the law but will not begin doing so until July 2021. Those found not in compliance could be fined up to $100 for every day they do not meet the ordinance. 

Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery store headquartered in Cincinnati, was among the strong proponents of this ban. In 2018, it was the first major U.S. retailer to launch a plan that would phase out single-use plastic bags, opting for reusable bags in all stores by 2025. 

The Council’s decision last Thursday now propels this initiative forward at all Kroger’s within the city. 

Junior Co-Chair of the Xavier Student Sustainability Club (XSS) Clare Ravizza also reminds Xavier students that this decision may also have implications when they go off campus to Kroger or Target. 

“Sometimes you go to Target and you get six plastic bags and you forget and those end up in the trash because you’re not thinking about it. This is a good reminder to think about what they are consuming and where that is going,” Ravizza said. 

This regulation could also affect on-campus establishments such as Currito or the bookstore that currently use single-use plastic bags.   

She went on to encourage students to carry around a tote in their backpacks come next spring when the law will be in place.  

At the same time, Ravizza shares the sentiments of Councilman Wendell Young who reminded Cincinnatians that this plastic bag ban is part of a much larger movement. 

“(Banning) plastic bags won’t cure the problem… but it makes people think, what else?” Young said.

“It is a step in the right direction, but it is not the kind of aggressive action that we need right now to tackle climate change,” Ravizza echoed. 

She explained that putting a carbon tax in place, providing incentives for electric cars or investing more in wider-reaching public transportation are among the steps that need to be taken to tackle the climate crisis at hand.