Lawrence City Commission to weigh in on proposed plastic bag ban

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Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday will consider next steps for a proposed citywide ban on single-use plastic bags, as well as a full-time code compliance official to enforce the ban.

The Sustainability Advisory Board has long discussed options aiming to reduce the use of plastics in the city, which in turn could help prevent some pollution from the bags, contamination through microplastics from bags’ degradation, and animal deaths from eating the bags, among other concerns.

previous draft of the ordinance would have required establishments to charge customers 15 cents per single-use disposable bag. The current draft ordinance would instead make the bags prohibited within city limits.

Produce bags or product bags used to prevent contamination or damage would still be allowed under the proposed ordinance. Reusable bags would be exempted from the ban, and single-use disposable paper bags would still be allowed. 

According to the memo in the commission’s agenda, if the ban is approved, the city’s planning department would need another full-time position to enforce the ban. That would be a full-time code compliance officer with a salary or $94,000. They would spend about one-third of their time on enforcement of the bag ban and two-thirds of their time on other code enforcement work, according to the memo.

The code official would be tasked with issuing warnings to establishments that use plastic bags. The warning would let them know that any future violation of the ordinance could result in prosecution. Fines laid out in the ordinance range from $100 for a first conviction to $500 for a third or subsequent conviction within a year of the first.

If approved as currently written, the ordinance would go into effect Jan. 1, 2024.

If the ban is approved but the new position is not, the city would not have the staffing needed to enforce the ban, according to the memo.

The Kansas Legislature has in recent years considered legislation that would prevent local municipalities from enacting or enforcing ordinances on single-use plastics, but none of the bills have been passed.

The Lawrence City Commission will meet at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, June 6 at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. Meetings are also livestreamed on the city’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/lawrenceksvideo.

Commissioners accept written public comment emailed to ccagendas@lawrenceks.org until noon the day of the meeting. People may also give public comment during the meeting in person at City Hall or via Zoom. Register for the Zoom meeting at this link.

Here’s the full memo and draft ordinance:

20230605-Draft-bag-ordinance

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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