Plastic bag

A plastic bag hooked on vegetation.

Omaha’s proposed plastic bag ban would expand to all retailers larger than 10,000 square feet as part of a push by City Council proponents to clarify which stores would be covered.

The amendment also would give retailers longer, until Jan. 1, 2022, to prepare for the transition to reusable bags.

And people will get the chance to weigh in a second time on the ban.

The ban’s sponsors on the City Council decided to hold a second public hearing on the proposal at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Legislative Chambers of the County-City Building, 1819 Farnam St.

Council members Ben Gray and Pete Festersen offered the latest amendment to their original proposal Thursday, aiming to answer questions from retailers and council members Chris Jerram and Aimee Melton about whether the measure could withstand legal scrutiny.

Their original plan targeted businesses that primarily sell food, including grocery stores, bakeries, candy shops and delicatessens. A later version aimed to include big box stores and drugstores but excluded hardware stores and dry cleaners, among others.

Melton spent much of a recent pre-council-meeting session asking whether the ban would apply to Home Depot, HomeGoods or Big Lots. The latest amendment addresses that question. All would be covered by the ban, so long as the store is larger than 10,000 square feet.

That means the ban would cover any grocery store, drugstore, home improvement store or other local retailer larger than the size of about two full-sized college or NBA basketball courts. (Each court would cover roughly 4,700 square feet.)

The public already was given the chance to weigh in on the original ban. But that hearing followed three hours of public testimony on the city’s next proposed trash contract, so many residents who signed up to testify left before the ban came up.

Under the new version, the list of affected retailers grows.

It would include Bakers, Hy-Vee, Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Big Lots, Walgreens, CVS and more.

Gray and Festersen said they incorporated requests from retailers and fellow council members to delay implementation, pushing it back until Jan. 1, 2022. The proposal, as originally written, would have become law on Jan. 1, 2020.

Retailers and representatives of the plastic industry argued during the first public hearing that moving too quickly to get rid of the plastic bags would increase their costs and consumers’.

The new version would give businesses 2½ years to phase in changes that Kroger has already made in the Pacific Northwest and that other retailers have implemented elsewhere.

The original proposal, which banned the bags at food retailers, is still up for discussion, Festersen said.

Mayor Jean Stothert has expressed concerns about earlier versions of the proposed ban.

She has said she prefers working with retailers on voluntary changes.

The mayor has not yet weighed in on the latest version.

But Gray said he hopes she’ll be more supportive after reading the new language and hearing more about it during the public hearing.