20190430_new_stothert

Jean Stothert

Mayor Jean Stothert isn’t budging in her opposition to a proposed plastic bag ban in Omaha, despite changes made to the proposal by two City Council members.

Stothert, in a letter Monday, said she opposes their latest amendment, which would ban retail stores larger than 10,000-square-feet from using plastic bags. Affected retailers, including grocery stores, big box stores and drug stores, would have until 2022 to stop.

The proposed ban will be the subject of a second public hearing at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Legislative Chambers of the City-County Building, 1819 Farnam St. The council could vote on the ban after the public hearing.

The mayor asked the council to delay a vote and instead support a study of the best ways to reduce litter and waste.

City Council President Ben Gray and City Councilman Pete Festersen have said they want to ban the bags to cut back on litter and trash headed to the landfill.

Festersen said he and Gray still plan to pursue the ordinance, because such bans have worked in other communities. He said they’d also support a litter study, working with Keep Omaha Beautiful. It could collect baseline data before the ordinance takes effect in 2022.

Stothert said she thinks the proposed ban will not accomplish its goals, in particular reducing litter, because it exempts convenience stores.

She also cited research presented at a national conference for city leaders that she recently attended, including one study from Australia that found that California’s plastic bag ban led to higher sales of plastic trash bags, so one type of plastic bag replaced another.

She repeated her previous preference that the council adopt a nonbinding resolution and work with retailers to negotiate voluntary shifts away from plastic bags.

Kroger (Baker’s stores in Omaha) and Wohlner’s have already said they are moving away from plastic bags. Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Costco and others don’t use them. A law is not needed, the mayor said.

Festersen, in an interview Monday, said his discussions with retailers show that they are willing to work with any policy the city adopts .

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