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Omaha's City Council approves plastic bag ban

Posted at 11:52 AM, May 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-21 19:28:15-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Chances are you've seen plastic bags blowing down Omaha streets or in trees.

Tuesday, Omaha's City Council held a public hearing and vote on banning them at some stores to cut down on what they call eyesores.

Omaha City Council approved the ban 4-3, which will go into effect in 2022.

In a letter, Mayor Jean Stothert said she wished to reiterate her opposition to the ban and instead asked council members to "support a litter study to determine the best approach to reducing litter and waste."

Stothert cited similar studies to support her request.

"The EPA reports that plastic bags make up less than 0.3% of municipal solid waste. Statewide litter surveys, the most recent in New Jersey, show plastic bags typically make up less than 1% of litter and 90% of the discarded plastic bags are from sales at convenience stores, which by their size, would be exempt from the proposed ordinance," she says.

You can read more about the proposed ordinance and which stores it would impact here.

You can read Stothert's full letter here.

Mayor Stothert issued the following statement after the vote:

"Reducing the use of plastic bags is certainly important, however an ordinance to ban plastic bags does not solve the problem of plastic debris in our landfills, parks and right of way.

Only 1% of cities, counties, and towns in the United States have passed a plastic bag ban.

I have been clear with the council that I will not support an ordinance to ban plastic bags, but would support a resolution to require retailers to phase out the use of plastic bags by 2025. I plan to veto the ordinance.

Research shows that 90% of plastic bag litter comes from convenience stores which would be exempt in this ordinance due to their square footage (10,000 square feet or less).

As recently as yesterday, I shared research and surveys with council members that show a ban on plastic bags will have no significant effect on plastic waste.

EPA data shows plastic bags make up 0.3% of municipal plastic waste.

Retail plastic bags are one of the most reused products in America. Research published in January, 2019 in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management shows California’s plastic bag ban has resulted in skyrocketing plastic trash bag sales.

I encourage the City Council to consider a litter study to address the broad problem of plastic debris."

Watch a live recording of the meeting on Facebook below.