Making retailers recycle plastic bags


A bill would require grocers and other retailers who provide customers with plastic carryout bags to make in-store bag recycling available.

Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul) sponsors HF2746, which would also require plastic bag manufacturers to work with store operators to collect, transport and recycle the bags. It would further provide for financial penalties against retailers and manufacturers who violate the bill’s provisions.

The informal House Solid Waste, Recycling and Resources Conservation Working Group held a hearing on the bill Feb. 22, but took no action. The bill has been referred to the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Under the bill’s provisions, the words “please reuse or recycle at a participating store” would have to be printed on all plastic carryout bags, and recycling bins would have to be clearly marked and visible to the customers. The bill would apply to all retailers with stores larger than 5,000 square feet, or that are part of a chain of stores with five or more locations.

Lesch said the bill only makes sense as people are becoming more aware of recycling and waste issues. He noted that he keeps a drawer at home devoted to storing plastic bags, but that “there is no way I can reuse as many as I get from all the retail establishments I shop at.”

Jamie Pfuhl, executive director of the Minnesota Grocers Association, said many retailers already offer plastic bag recycling programs. She cautioned legislators against “mandating what is already being done effectively” by private industry, and warned that there is a lack of support for the idea especially among rural retailers.

Defending the bill, Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) said, “Voluntary programs are nice, but a little bit here and a little bit there is not a comprehensive solution.”

A companion bill, SF2800, sponsored by Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL-St. Paul), awaits action by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.