Retailers willing to adapt to possible plastic bag ban

Ngawang Dakpa, owner of Tibet Arts & Gifts LLC, bags his merchandise in plastic for one of the last times due to the recent ban on plastic bags.

By Hannah Lemmons
JCamp reporter

Ngawang Dakpa does what he can to help the environment.

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The Minneapolis resident used to buy environmentally friendly plastic bags from a small independent company. As the owner of Tibet Arts & Gifts, he would use them for Midtown Global Market shoppers. Recently, the sustainable bag company went out of business, he said.

Dakpa, 50, is now forced to rely on cheap bags from CVS to package customers’ purchases.

“I don’t want to, but I have no other option,” he said.

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Friday night, city council member Cam Gordon of Ward 2 plans to give a notice of intent to pursue a ban on plastic bags. His proposal to Minneapolis Council would also require retailers to charge a 5-cent fee per paper bag. According to a 2013 study conducted by the Equinox Center in California, a ban on plastic bags can reduce CO2 emissions by thousands of tons.

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“There are concerns about climate change and possible implications of that,” Gordon said. “And we know that [plastic bags] do create CO2 emissions in their production.”

Gordon hopes this would help the city to reach its long-term goal of becoming a zero-waste city.

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“I don’t feel these single-use plastic bags are getting us in that direction,” Gordon said. “They’re taking us further away…Really, what we want is to encourage a bring-your-own bag program, where people are reusing bags over and over hundreds of times–presumably good bags that are manufactured in a good way and are reusable.”

Some retailers and customers in Midtown Global Market said they would support the ban due to the potential positive environmental effects. However, the increased expense of reusable bags is off-putting. Like Dakpa, they want an equally inexpensive alternative.

Robyn Aguilar, manager of grocery store Holy Land in the Midtown Global Market branch, said a ban on plastic bags “would affect [their] business greatly.”

“Recycling is great, and whatever we can do to help the environment would be awesome,” she said. “But we would need another option, you know, same cost-effectiveness.”

Aguilar said few of their regulars bring their own reusable bags. Although she would not oppose the ban, adjusting to this change may be challenging for customers.

“We are a grocery store,” she said. “It’s not like a ‘buy one item and go’. We don’t have carts for them to carry stuff to the car – they have to use the bags.”

However, the patrons seem as willing to adapt as the business owners.

“Everytime I think I’m going to need a plastic bag, I get sad,” said June Thiemann, a 52-year-old writer and mental health pro-activist. “I don’t want to walk around carrying a plastic bag. I think it would be great if Minneapolis banned plastic bags.”

Apple Valley resident Shannon Wakefield believes over time, more and more people will appreciate retailers using plastic bag alternatives.

“As a general rule, I don’t take plastic bags,” said the 40-year-old medical device salesperson. “I don’t know the cost difference, but if you look at the general trend, more and more people are embracing [not using plastic bags]. It seems the way the world is moving toward.”