Minot Environmental Policy Group not there yet

The Minot Environmental Policy Group will be discussing findings and recommendations at a public meeting this week after months of examining ways to cut down on the number of single-use plastic shopping bags used in Minot (and often blowing around Minot).

It’s a legitimate effort from concerned parties. It’s hardly a unique initiative. Other cities around the country have moved to ban or discourage the use of plastic bags, although none in North Dakota. There are certainly strong environmental reasons to tackle this issue.

However, Minot Daily News is uncertain that the working policy proposal parameters represent the best possible plan.

The current proposal is a 5 cent per-bag fee. Food assistance recipients and non-profit retailers would be exempt. Waivers also would exist for use of plastic bags in instances such as separating meats or chemicals from other items or to package produce, flowers, dry cleaned items, food to go and small party favors. Revenue raised through the plan would be split between individual stores doing the collecting and the City of Minot.

There are several concerns likely to be aired over the course of this discussion. One, it complicates the checkout process as clerks try to determine what bags qualify for the fee and which don’t – and deal with customers who might interpret the rules differently. Two, in the wake of a property tax increase, the resistance to a proposed recycling program and the likely increase in garbage fees related to the looming landfill decision, just how much support is there among residents for yet more fees? Three, there aren’t terrific options to plastic bags right now. The reusable bags available at many stores are fine for a single person. But exactly how many will it take to shop for a family of four, or of six?

Make no mistake, it would be good to see Minot take a leading role in advancing sound environmental policy and those seeking to make it happen should be lauded.

It just seems there should be a better way – to somehow incentivize a change in habit as opposed to punish to prompt change.