Duluth City Council backs off controversial plastic bag fee with Coronavirus concerns

It will be safer and a bit more affordable for residents of Duluth to go to the grocery store for the time being.  Under pressure, the city council yesterday rolled back a politically correct 5 cent penalty on plastic bags set to take effect at the height of the Coronavirus outbreak on April 1.

The Minnesota Grocers Association raised concerns about the bag fee putting additional unnecessary pressure on grocery store workers who are already under the gun keeping shelves stocked. And city council member Arik Forsman raised questions about the public health implications of more consumers bringing their own potentially contaminated shopping bags into stores, according to WDIO-TV.

He [Forsman] said he was already looking into this issue prior to the COVID-19 pandemic because a constituent brought up a concern about reusable bags bringing pathogens into grocery stores.

Forsman and Medved said as elected officials, they have “bigger fish to fry” right now and don’t need to be focusing on the bag fee again.

Gung-ho proponents of the plastic bag penalty pushed for a three month delay. But the Duluth News Tribune noted they joined in a unanimous vote to postpone the penalty on shoppers until January 1, albeit reluctantly.

As a supporter of the plastic-bag fee, [Councilor Joel] Sipress said he had felt well-positioned to offer an amendment to delay implementation of the policy.

“We have now an amendment coming forward that, regardless of the intended motive, could be perceived as reflecting opposition to the plastic-bag fee in it’s entirety, because this amendment came forward from opponents of that ordinance. I think that’s unfortunate. I wish we could have found a way to work together and bring something forward together that would have addressed this and reached the resolution we need,” he said.

It’s another example of how the COVID-19 crisis has helped put the public’s priorities in a healthier perspective. By next year, let’s hope the majority of the Duluth City Council agrees to bag the penalty altogether.