IOWA CITY (AP) — Activists are working with officials in Johnson County to ban plastic bags used by retailers, and they're hoping a regional effort will be more successful than previous attempts.
County officials have been looking at ways to reduce plastic bag use for several months, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported. Now, local governments are coming together to discuss a phase-out proposal.
Leadership for the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County formed a subcommittee in November that aimed to explore single-use plastic bag programs. They eventually endorsed the idea that local governments try a three-step process over a six- to 12-month period that would ultimately phase out the bags.
A push for a ban in Iowa City failed to gain support from the City Council at the end of 2012. Council members expressed concern over the competitive disadvantage of local businesses to neighboring cities.
100 Grannies for a Livable Future, a local group, has been behind the ban effort in Iowa City. This time, they turned to the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County for help with a regional approach.
“Plastic bags are made from fossil fuels, and they don't biodegrade — they stay in our landfills and our environment,” said Becky Ross, who is spearheading the work by the 100 Grannies. “They just break down into small pieces, so it's in our water supply and in our oceans.”
The process would include an education campaign, followed by a retailer fee for using plastic and paper bags. A ban would then be enacted that would also include a fee for paper bags.
Johnson County would be the first in the state to issue a ban. Marshall County passed a plastic bag ban in 2009, but its county seat of Marshalltown did not.
Susan Mims is an Iowa City Council member who served on the plastic bag subcommittee. She's hoping for an ordinance that would be contingent on all the cities and the county passing it. Leaders from Johnson County cities are expected to discuss the proposal at a coming work session in March.
“Hopefully with the right discussions, we can get more and more retailers buying into the idea that we need to make these changes, and we can find ways that they see it as a benefit to their business, and not as a deterrent to customers coming to their business,” she said.
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