Lawrence’s Sustainability Advisory Board sends single-use bag ordinance back to subcommittee

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Revisiting an issue that had long been on hold for the City of Lawrence, the Sustainability Advisory Board on Wednesday discussed an ordinance that would require establishments to charge customers 15 cents per disposable paper or plastic bag used.

The board ultimately decided to ask the climate change subcommittee to do a little more research and make some revisions before the ordinance proceeds further. It will come back to the SAB at a future meeting.

Some community members commented during the meeting, mostly in favor of some measure to limit the use of disposable bags, though not necessarily a fee to consumers. A few commenters said they would like to see an outright ban of plastic bags, instead of a fee.

“I think taxing them (the bags) is kind of punishing the consumer for a production problem, and it also doesn’t get rid of it,” Mattie Bell said.

Joel Campbell said the city should provide opportunities for residents to get free reusable bags, because the upfront costs could hurt people who are living paycheck to paycheck.

Another concern board members raised was that under the ordinance, the fees per bag would all be kept by the establishments rather than used to potentially help make the initiative more successful, through efforts such as education and providing reusable bags to people who need them. SAB Chair Ma’Ko’Quah Jones explained that if the city collected any of the fee, it could be considered a tax.

The board unanimously approved a multi-part motion to ask the climate change subcommittee to reconsider the bag fee, reconsider a possible ban of plastic bags, and consider a goal date to move forward.

The SAB meets on the second Wednesday of each month. The next meeting will be Nov. 10.

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