Green Team plans July reusable-bag drive
After a series of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuyahoga County's ban on single-use plastic bags went into effect on Jan. 16, 2022.
Some large chain stores, such as Giant Eagle and CVS, have already eliminated plastic bags.
"The county is actively working with stores to help them transition from using single-use plastic bags at the checkout ahead of any enforcement action,” explained Sheryl Harris, director of the county's Department of Consumer Affairs. “Retailers are not facing fines yet, but are being actively encouraged and supported by the county to switch to paper bags and reusable bags before enforcement is enacted.”
The Cleveland Heights Green Team (CHGT) recognizes that not all people have equal access to adequate reusable bags, and that businesses of different sizes have different levels of ability to respond to the ban.
“In the case of the plastic ban, what we ultimately want is for our residents to embrace the idea of reusing bags for all its positive outcomes, and to remember to bring them on their shopping outings," explained Gavin Andersen, a CHGT spokesperson.
"For some shoppers and business owners, the transition from single-use plastic bags can be regarded more as a burden," Andersen noted, "overshadowing all the positive effects on the environment, and long-term health benefits.
"Retailers who want to offer disposable paper bags, but aren’t willing or able to eat the cost, can charge per bag, or sell reusable bags of their own. These fees can have an unfair impact on disadvantaged groups. To lessen the impact, in particular on the working class, governments should make free-of-charge options available and accessible, for example by stocking them at grocery stores and other high-traffic places, mailing them to residents, giving them away at events, and so on.”
Taking a step toward such goals, CHGT, in partnership with Heights Libraries and the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, will collect reusable shopping bags July 1–30. Heights residents are invited to drop off reusable bags at the Nature Center and at all four branches of Heights Libraries—Coventry Village, Lee Road, Noble Neighborhood, and University Heights.
The donated bags should be clean and in good condition. Once sorted and inspected, the bags will be made available to residents in early fall.
According to Andersen, “Most people already have extra reusable shopping bags lying around in our car trunks, pantries, and garages. In the absence of a large-scale government program to distribute reusable bags, or sufficient unilateral effort by private businesses to provide them, this is a way of meeting that need on our own.”
Catalina Wagers lives in Cleveland Heights' Fairfax neighborhood, and is a co-founder of the Cleveland Heights Green Team.