Omaha City Council votes to ban plastic bags, mayor plans to issue veto

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Omaha City Council voted on Tuesday to enact a ban on plastic grocery bags within the city.

(MGN)

The ban will go into effect in January of 2022.

Councilman Pete Festersen brought up the idea of the ban a couple of months ago.

The council first started examining the issue three years ago.

By banning single-use plastic carryout bags used at grocery stores and big box stores, the city hopes to cut down on the litter and the problems that go with that.

People of all ages, including fifth graders, showed up to testify at the meeting in support of the ban.

Wohlner's Grocery is one of the local stores on board with the idea.

Mayor Jean Stothert has questioned the move, citing research that said cities that ban the bags end up increasing the purchase and use of small trash bags.

Stothert said she plans to veto the ordinance. Her statement on the passage of the ban is copied below.

"Reducing the use of plastic bags is certainly important, however an ordinance to ban plastic bags does not solve the problem of plastic debris in our landfills, parks and right of way.

Only 1% of cities, counties, and towns in the United States have passed a plastic bag ban.

I have been clear with the council that I will not support an ordinance to ban plastic bags, but would support a resolution to require retailers to phase out the use of plastic bags by 2025. I plan to veto the ordinance.

Research shows that 90% of plastic bag litter comes from convenience stores which would be exempt in this ordinance due to their square footage (10,000 square feet or less).

As recently as yesterday, I shared research and surveys with council members that show a ban on plastic bags will have no significant effect on plastic waste.

EPA data shows plastic bags make up 0.3% of municipal plastic waste.

Retail plastic bags are one of the most reused products in America. Research published in January, 2019 in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management shows California’s plastic bag ban has resulted in skyrocketing plastic trash bag sales.

I encourage the City Council to consider a litter study to address the broad problem of plastic debris." -Mayor Jean Stothert