Plastic shopping bags won't be banned in Iowa City

City to continue promoting reusable bags, recycling options

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Council members don’t like plastic bags, but they’re not going to ban them.

Council members, meeting at a work session Tuesday night, said they did not want to pursue a ban on plastic bags like the ones used to haul groceries home. Instead, they said the city should continue pushing reusable tote bags and recycling options.

Council member Connie Champion said she’d like to see plastic bags no longer used, but a ban may be impractical because the bags are so cheap and ubiquitous.

“It isn’t utopia just to get rid of the bags,” she said.

This was the second time in the past few years that the council has chosen not to pursue a ban. As before, city staff, including recycling coordinator Jen Jordan, recommended against outlawing them, saying education and recycling efforts are working well. They also said any ban should be considered on a regional basis so as to not put Iowa City stores at a competitive disadvantage, something council members agreed with.

It would take considerable staff time to figure out how a ban would work and to enforce it, Jordan said. Also, there’s the question of what would constitute a plastic bag. Would it just be grocery bags? What about plastic bags used by other retailers?

“I think it’s a lot more complicated than maybe I thought” initially, said council member Susan Mims, who also said she’d like to see plastic bags no longer used.

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