When the bag ban first came to City Council, most of its members were confident they knew how to vote, but the more testimony they take in, the harder the decision becomes.
After two council meetings, one focused solely on the subject, most of the seven members still haven’t made up their minds on the ordinance, which would ban plastic grocery bags and charge a 5 cent fee for paper.
“Something that seemed so easy at the beginning got difficult and very complicated,” said Fred Butler, a city councilmember.
Banning polystyrene food packaging, a similar idea, was relatively easy for the council by comparison.
The primary concerns are on whether banning plastic bags would actually reduce pollution and how it would affect small business owners.
Environmentalists and local bag manufacturers butted heads over the actual environmental impact from plastic bags and whether the alternatives were harsher on the environment.
Single-use paper bags use more energy to manufacture, and multiple use woven bags are imported from China and can’t be recycled.
Katie Moore from Aurora Plastics brought in boxes of paper and plastic bags to show the volume of pollution each uses. The stack of paper bags stood several feet, while the equivalent box of plastic bags stood less than a foot tall.
While most who spoke at the special April 30 council meeting presumed that the extra paper bag cost would hurt small businesses, representatives from grocery stores approved the law. The 5 cent mandatory fee helps them recuperate costs.
The council has scheduled to make a decision at its May 7 council meeting, but could delay the vote.
The ordinance was written to keep consistent with Seattle and other cities who have adopted the ban, but not everyone agreed it was necessary.
“The difficulty we have with that is that I didn’t get to make any of those rules, but I do get to take part in making this rule,” said Councilmember Joshua Schaer.