In a 6-1 vote May 29, Bexley City Council approved a ban on single-use plastic bags that is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler said he and councilman Troy Markham, chairman of council's service and environmental committee, co-authored the ordinance with input from the city's Environmental Sustainability Advisory Council. The council comprises residents who are working to identify solutions to help the city promote environmentally friendly practices.
Kessler said Ordinance 14-19 is designed to protect the environment from plastics that are not biodegradable.
"It was discussed at length in a consensus-building process with a multitude of Bexley businesses, which included Giant Eagle Market District," Kessler said of the legislation.
"Small, easy changes can make a big difference. We've gotten used to accepting pollution. We've gotten used to taking all those little plastic bags," Markham said. "Just a change in state of mind and a little leadership from a community like Bexley can make a huge change."
The ordinance bans plastic grocery and carryout bags at all businesses within Bexley city limits and at all city facilities and city-sponsored events beginning Jan. 1, 2020. A ban on beverage straws, stirrers, drink stoppers and cutlery will begin Jan. 1, 2021.
The ban on single-use plastics extends to educational institutions Jan. 1, 2021, while allowing an exception for plastic straws for those with special needs upon request. Mobile-business vendors are exempt from the ban on single-use plastics.
The ordinance allows customers to use their own bags and for businesses to provide a paper or reusable bag to customers for a 10-cent charge. The legislation also allows plastic bags to be used for meat and produce.
Markham, council President Lori Ann Feibel and members Mary Gottesman, Steve Keyes, Monique Lampke and Tim Madison voted for the ordinance.
Councilman Richard Sharp, who cast the dissenting vote, said he supports environmental conservation but would rather see the city educate and encourage businesses, organizations and residents to avoid single-use plastics of their own accord.
"I think Bexley would stand out if we were a community that got corporate interests to voluntarily, without government regulation," reject single-use plastics, he said. "I think I support the concept; I just don't support the mechanism."
Elizabeth Ellman, chairwoman of the ESAC, said she hopes other communities would follow Bexley's lead and ban single-use plastic bags.
"It's something that's manageable that we can start off with and start small and grow from there. It's a very tangible item," she said. "We can really teach people how they can change their patterns and their ways and show them that change is possible."
Dan Donovan, spokesman for the Giant Eagle Market District Express grocery store at 2250 E. Main St., said the company supports the city's single-use plastic-bags ban.
"We applaud Mayor Kessler and council for helping to ensure a better tomorrow with the comprehensive legislation on single-use plastics," Donovan said in an email. "As a retailer committed to bettering the communities we serve, Giant Eagle has a long history of offering reusable bags for sale and of helping customers recycle single-use plastic bags. We are excited to partner with the city to bring this effort to life in our Bexley Market District Express and look forward to sharing our specific plans in the near future."
Jeremy Fox, owner of Blocks Bagels Bexley at 3012 E. Broad St., said although his establishment technically isn't in Bexley and wouldn't be affected by the ban on single-use plastic bags, he supports the city's environmental efforts.
"We are in favor of any steps governing bodies are taking to help our environment. At my Bexley (area) location, we've completely removed all Styrofoam products, are using more reusable plates and cups and composting. The next phase is limiting single-use plastic items like straws, utensils and bags," Fox said.
"I believe people, as a whole, want to do the right thing and truly want to do their part to help the environment. However, I think it needs to start at the top and be mandated down to see real change. As a business owner, I understand this might mean increases in costs and changes to operations, but to be successful as business owners, we must be adaptable," he said.