Bexley's single-use plastic bags will go into effect Jan. 1, in spite of legislation the Ohio General Assembly is considering that would prevent municipalities from enacting such bans.

Representatives of the Giant Eagle Market District Express, 2250 E. Main St., joined Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler on Dec. 19 at the grocery store to announce an initiative that would eliminate all single-use plastics from the company's operations by 2025.

This past spring, Bexley and Cuyahoga County became the first two municipalities in Ohio to adopt single-use plastic bans. On May 29, Bexley City Council unanimously passed Ordinance 14-19, which 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. A ban on beverage straws, stirrers, drink stoppers and cutlery would begin on Jan. 1, 2021.

Kessler said his administration worked with Giant Eagle representatives and other local businesses over the past year to identify ways to protect the environment from plastics that are not biodegradable, while keeping businesses viable.

"We reached out to Giant Eagle and we started to talk about models we had seen in other parts of the country and the world for reducing single-use plastic bags," Kessler said. "We crafted it for the city of Bexley, but we crafted it for our retailers, as well. We crafted it in such a way that we could achieve a common goal that we both really believed in a way that was environmentally responsible and also economically responsible and feasible for these businesses."

Brian Ferrier, Giant Eagle Inc.'s vice president of regional operations, said the Pittsburgh-based grocery store chain has a long-term commitment to eliminate single-use plastics from its stores, beginning with the elimination of single-use plastic bags in the front end of its central Ohio supermarket locations. This effort would be complemented by a chain-wide plan to encourage reusable bags by offering a Fuelperk, which could be redeemed for gas or groceries at Giant Eagle, for each reusable bag that customers use at checkout, Ferrier said.

"We are super-excited for the opportunity to not only operate a great supermarket in Bexley, but to be a partner in what we believe is sweeping change," he said. "I believe we have a model here, a model that will be looked upon and hopefully a catalyst in other areas."

Ordinance 14-19 extends the ban on single-use plastics to education institutions on Jan. 1, 2021, while allowing an exception for plastic straws for those with special needs upon request.

Ordinance 14-19 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.

Bexley City Attorney Marc Fishel said the city's ordinance will go into effect even though House Bill 242 is pending in the Ohio Senate. The Ohio House of Representatives approved House Bill 242 by a 58-35 vote on Dec. 11. The bill would forbid any of the state's local governments from enacting "a tax, fee, assessment, or other charge on auxiliary containers," including plastic and paper bags.

"The plastic bag ban will take effect as planned," Fishel said in an email. "At this point, the Ohio House has passed a bill enacting a prohibition against such an ordinance, but the Senate has not taken any such action."

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