Cuyahoga County’s Disposable Bag Ban is in effect. The County’s immediate priority is to support retailers through the transition away from plastic checkout bags so that everyone can benefit from a healthier, safer, more economically viable Cuyahoga County. County residents can help reduce the demand for single-use plastic bags by bringing their own reusable bags when shopping.
Disposable plastic bags are a major source of pollution in our land, neighborhoods and waterways. They harm wildlife and people, impose cleanup costs on our communities, and contribute to climate change. Over 319 million plastic bags become waste each year in Cuyahoga County. Cuyahoga County joins the many other communities and nations who are taking steps to curb plastic pollution.
Not quite. Though some plastic bags can be recyclable, as of 2015 almost 90% of single use plastic bags, sacks, and wraps were never recycled.
Many of the companies that support recycling as a solution for the plastic waste problem continue to invest in plastic production, allowing the amount of plastic waste to grow. Many consumer goods companies have put an undue burden to reduce plastic waste on consumers.
In the United States, six times more plastic waste is burned than recycled. This not only is a waste of the natural resources that polyethylene plastic bags are made of, but even highly regulated landfills and incinerators could pose human health and environmental justice concerns.
Recycling can be one small part of the solution, but the real need is to cut out single-use plastic waste so it never has to be disposed of.
Many countries and U.S. cities have adopted bag bans and restrictions. At least 127 countries and 349 jurisdictions have regulations on plastic bags—explore an interactive map of single-use plastic bag reduction policies in the United States.
Chicago, IL implemented a plastic bag tax that significantly reduced disposable bag us and increased the chance that shoppers would use reusable bags.
In cities like San Jose, programs have reduced the amount of single-use plastic bags found in rivers and creeks by 78%, and 69% in storm drain inlets.
In 2019, San Jose retailers reported a 94% reduction in single-use plastic bag usage.
The County Board of Health has useful tips for keeping your reusable bags clean:
Wash your reusable bags routinely—turn them inside out and either hand wash them in hot soapy water or put them in a washing machine on the gentle cycle. Dry them in a machine or on the clothesline.
Wipe down bags that can’t be washed with disinfecting or anti-bacterial wipes, especially if fresh foods may have dripped from their original containers.
Use separate bags for raw meats, seafood and produce. Minimize the chance of cross-contamination by placing raw foods that may drip in separate bags from ready-to-eat foods, like fruits and vegetables.
You can safely transport food products and chemicals, including cleaners and other non-food liquids, in separate labeled bags.
Store bags in your car instead of your trunk to help keep them dry. Keep them visible, so you don’t forget to bring them into the store with you.
Discard old bags that can no longer be properly washed or disinfected.
While the average time period a plastic is used is only 12 minutes, each year over 300 million bags are discarded in Cuyahoga County alone.
Plastic bag waste increases public maintenance and cleanup costs. Water and sewer systems run more smoothly without plastic bags clogging storm drains and discharging into our waterways.
Each stage of the plastic lifecycle poses significant risks to human health. Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to break down in a landfill. Plastics never fully decompose. Instead, they degrade into microplastics and leech toxic chemicals that contaminate our water and air.
Lake Erie, the smallest Great Lake, has one of the highest concentrations of microplastics in the world.
Plastic bag waste threatens our natural ecosystems and the health of our native biodiversity.
In Chicago, bag usage dropped by more than 50 percent in the first month of their program.
San Jose programs have reduced the number of single-use plastic bags found in rivers and creeks by 78%, and 69% in storm drain inlets. In 2019, retailers reported a 94% reduction in single-use plastic bag usage.
At least 127 countries and at least 349 jurisdictions have regulations on plastic bags.
In light of ongoing supply chain issues and Ohio’s effort to “ban the ban,” the County has opted to not issue fines to stores. The County created a program to assist stores with voluntary compliance. To help retailers make the transition away from plastic checkout bags, the County launched the Sustainable Stores program.
Additionally, the County has a Communications Toolkit for retail stores to promote the Bring Your Own Bags education initiative, including graphics for signage and communications materials to help encourage customers to bring reusable bags when they shop.
Reducing the use of plastic checkout bags benefits retailers and their communities. In a 2019 survey of Cuyahoga County residents, 72% were in favor of a plastic bag ban. This indicates that many residents support retailers limiting checkout bags and presents an opportunity for retailers to cater toward consumer values.
Plastic checkout bags are not free to retailers, and their costs are passed down to consumers through higher prices. Eliminating them could not only reduce a cost to retailers, but also reduce the longer-term costs residents incur through county cleanups and disposal fees.
Healthier communities lead to healthier local economies and reducing plastic waste will vastly improve the health of Cuyahoga County neighborhoods.
The kind of bags that are prohibited are disposable plastic bags (made from either non-compostable plastic or compostable plastic) that are provided by a Retail Establishment to a customer at point of sale for the purpose of transporting purchased items. Thicker film plastic bags are NOT allowed.
Permitted paper bags, which are 100% recyclable and manufactured from at least 40% recycled content
Reusable bags that are specifically intended for multiple reuses and is made of cloth, fiber, or other machine washable fabric. They must be at least 2.25 mils thick and capable of carrying a minimum of 18 pounds with at least 75 uses per bag.
Stop offering single-use plastic bags at checkout.
If providing paper bags, charge a fee for them. According to this local study, customer behavior is encouraged to change as a result of an incurred consequence like a fee. (This webinar summarizes the study.)
Sell reusable, machine washable, woven bags to customers.
Give customers incentives to bring reusable bags—for example, putting customers in drawings for gift cards if they bring their own bags, or providing them with rewards or giveaways for bringing bags.
Hang reminder signs on doors or windows so customers don’t forget their bags in their cars.
Retailers in Cuyahoga County cities that have opted out of the ban are still encouraged to stop offering single-use plastic bags at checkout and support Cuyahoga County’s overall commitment to reduce single-use plastic waste.
Most woven reusable bags are sold for a few dollars, making them a relatively affordable option. If you are concerned about the added cost of purchasing reusable bags, paper bags are less environmentally costly than plastic checkout bags and can still be an option. You can also reuse plastic bags that you already have or use cardboard boxes to transport items.
Though they may appear free to shoppers, plastic bags have never been free of costs. Costs incurred by retailers from purchasing single-use plastic checkout bags are passed to shoppers through higher costs of goods.
A significant amount of energy is required to mine the raw materials used to make plastic bags, natural gas and petroleum. Depleting nonrenewable resources to create a product that is only used for several minutes on average, yet never fully breaks down, is inefficient and wasteful.
Because they are so light, plastic bags are more difficult to dispose of and become litter easily. Plastic bags clog our storm drains, slow water filtration machinery, and become scattered throughout our communities. The additional costs of labor for maintenance and clean- ups are passed on to taxpayers.
The long term environmental and economic costs of plastic bags are lasting and incredibly harmful. Plastic bags break down into microplastics and leech toxins into our air, soil, and water. People ingest approximately 74,000 particles of microplastics each year—they have even been found in human placentas.
Here are some suggestions for how you can eliminate plastic checkout bags from your life:
#BYOBags. When you shop, take your own bags to the grocery, retail or convenience store. Canvas, vinyl or cloth are great options. Find a design or color that matches your personality and purchasing habits.
Reuse single-use plastic checkout bags that you already have. If you have a stockpile of bags on hand, it’s better to reuse them as much as you can before throwing them away.
Pick up poop. Bread bags, frozen food bags and used food storage bags are a strong option for picking up after your pooch on your next walk around the neighborhood.
Forget the poop bags altogether. Use an unlined handled scooper or shovel to collect the doo then deposit the pile into a backyard dog waste composter.
Use reusable produce bags. Purchase mesh bags or make your own reusable cloth bags for fresh fruits and vegetables. Ask the clerk at the checkout to remove items sold by weight from reusable mesh bags so you are not charged for the weight of the bag. Be sure to wash them often.
Do you really need that bag? If you're only purchasing one or two items, or taking restaurant leftovers to go, carry the items out of the store or eatery without a plastic bag.
Use other bags you may have around the house--such as pet food, birdseed and dry-cleaning bags as kitchen trash can liners. You may be surprised at the options you already have in your household.
Consider not lining smaller trash cans in laundry rooms and bedrooms at all. If you prefer a liner, try using a paper bag instead. Some manufacturers make bathroom trash bins with removable permanent liners that can be removed and cleaned.