And the winner is ... Lake Erie!
Yes, Lake Erie is the winner! On May 28, Cuyahoga County Council passed a plastic bag ban! This is really great news for Cuyahoga County and for Lake Erie. The ban passed by an 8-3 margin, which went along party lines, with Democratic council members voting for it and Republican council members against it. (Our Cuyahoga County Council representative, Nan Baker, voted against it.)
Cuyahoga County is the first county in Ohio to pass such legislation. The city of Bexley, Ohio, passed similar legislation just hours after Cuyahoga County did, and Orange Village passed a similar ban last year for its municipality. The Cuyahoga County ban stops stores from offering plastic bags to consumers and instead customers need to bring reusable bags or the store must offer paper bags made of recyclable material.
The law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020, which allows stores plenty of time to adjust and also allows the county and community organizations enough time to distribute reusable bags widely. The punishment for continued use of offering plastic bags to consumers is first a written warning, followed by a $100 fine for the second offense and a $500 fine for the third offense.
Sunny Simon, the councilmember who introduced the legislation, estimates that the law will reduce plastic pollution by 300 million bags a year in Cuyahoga County alone. Wow – 300 million bags will not be distributed next year in our county – what wonderful news!
Will this one law solve our plastic pollution problem? Of course not. However, it’s absolutely a step in the right direction. Currently there are around 200 cities nationwide that have plastic bag bans in place and have not had negative economic effects.
I’m disappointed and upset to write that with Lake Erie’s win last week, it may end up actually being the loser. Why? Because there are two Ohio representatives – George Lang (R-West Chester) and Don Jones (R-Freeport) – who have again introduced “Ban the Ban” (House Bill 242) legislation to the Ohio House. Similar legislation passed the Ohio House last year, but it did not make it through the Senate before the end of the legislative session.
HB 242 is disconcerting because the state is looking to preempt our county laws, laws which are passed and in place because they are right for Cuyahoga County. It is worth noting that HB 242 is pretty much a copycat bill that has also been introduced in other states by the oil, gas and plastic industries. Hmm … who stands to lose money when fewer plastic bags are being handed out? That’s right, it’s the oil, gas and plastic industries! Coincidence? Hardly.
Do you think HB 242 is a clear attack on our local democracy? I do. Do you believe that the state legislature should have overreach over local governments? I think that cities and counties should be able to pass and enforce laws that are right for them. Cuyahoga County sits on the shores of Lake Erie and it is up to us to do our part to protect that lake from further pollution.
The plastic bag ban will put a dent in the plastic pollution in Lake Erie and other waterways. (Remember, Lake Erie is one of the most polluted Great Lakes. The contamination level of the entirety of Lake Erie rivals the most polluted part of the ocean.)
Moreover, I do not believe representatives from eastern and southwestern districts in Ohio, along with seven other Republican co-sponsors (none of whom are from Northeast Ohio), should be introducing laws that upend our local laws.
Do you agree? Please call Dave Greenspan, who is the State Representative for Bay Village and Westlake, and please let him know that you oppose HB 242. His number is 614-466-0961. The bill had its first hearing in the House on May 29. Let’s each do our part to make sure that Lake Erie stays the winner!