Cuyahoga County council member pushes legislation banning plastic bags

CLEVELAND -- One local council member is pushing to ban plastic bags across Cuyahoga County.

With hundreds of millions of the plastic shopping bags making their way into our homes each year in Cuyahoga County, county council member Sunny Simon said she worries most about where they go next.

Although some area retailers have sites in their businesses where the bags can be responsibly recycled, Simon believes very few people are doing that.

The county's solid waste district advises plastic bags, mesh food bags, pet food bags and plastic film should not be placed in curbside recycling. The solid waste district said the bags get tangled in the sorting machines at the facilities and cause major problems for the recycling process.

Simon believes the majority of the discarded, non bio-degradable plastic bags end up in landfills or area waterways where they threaten the environment. She said this ultimately will impact water quality and the health and safety of citizens.

"Alone here in Lake Erie, we see over five million pounds of plastic dumped or found in our lake every single year. So, Lake Erie is extremely polluted," said Simon, who explains that the sun helps the discarded plastic leach chemicals into the water.

"We might not see the plastic but it's a misconception to think it's not polluted with plastic because we don't see it," she added.

The bags that end up in the landfill, she insists, are also creating problems that can linger for hundreds of years.

"When you have mounds of these plastic bags in your waste recycle bin it ends up costing money to the residents and to the city. And, it winds up in a landfill for a thousand years, leaking toxins into the environment. So, there's no good option for these bags and even on the front end they are made mostly with fossil fuels and petroleum, extremely inefficient," said Simon.

Simon is helping to propose a complete ban of the plastic bags in Cuyahoga County.

"This problem is not something we can recycle our way out of, especially when it comes to plastic," she explained.

If the proposal is adopted, consumers would have to bring their own re-usable bags with them when shopping and stores would have to use paper bags that are 100% recyclable.

The proposal does have a small number of very specific exemptions.

Merchants who do not abide by the ban would face penalties.

If the proposal is adopted here, Cuyahoga County would join several hundred other counties across the country to have adopted such a ban. New York, Hawaii and California already have statewide bans of the plastic bags.

"We only have five lakes that are fresh water -- the largest body is in our backyard, so I think we all have a duty and an obligation to protect it for future generations so we all can live along this beautiful lake," said Simon.

The proposed ban is expected to be introduced to county council on Tuesday.

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