Batavia approves 10-cent fee on single-use shopping bags

The Batavia City Council recently voted 10-3 to implement a 10-cent fee on retail single-use shopping bags in the city.

The fee goes into effect July 1, 2023.

The city’s Environmental Commission began to discuss the idea of charging a fee on carryout single-use bags at stores earlier this year as a way to decrease the use of disposable plastic bags at shops in the city.

The measure will impact retailers with a gross floor area of 5,000 square feet or more.

“Environmental conservation and preservation is one of Batavia’s core values and the city’s vision is to remain a connected green community,” according to the newly-adopted ordinance.

The measure does not pertain to bags provided by pharmacists or dry cleaning, garbage, pet waste or yard waste bags or carry-out bags at restaurants for prepared foods and at farmers markets.

Members of the City Council said “education” will be a big component of the program. Goodwill in Batavia was praised for not providing single-use plastic bags to customers.

“We can call it a tax and a fee or whatever you want. I look at it as positive reinforcement because people have decided they want to do something for the environment,” said Batavia Ald. Alan Wolff, 2nd Ward.

“It’s not just where all those bags end up. It’s where all those bags came from and what it takes to create them,” he said. “I was surprised to find out when I started to dig deeper into this how much water is used to create paper bags or recycled bags. It’s huge and that’s something that is going to be detrimental to the environment in 20 to 30 years when we are fighting over water and not over 10 cents a bag.”

Each retailer will retain four cents from each 10-cent fee that the store collects, while the remaining six cents will go to the city.

The city has hired a firm to promote an educational campaign concerning the plastic bag issue.

Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke.

Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said he encouraged moving forward with the program and reviewing it in six months.

“If we let this thing go forward, it’s a good experiment to find out if Batavia or anyone else is willing to do this,” Schielke said.

“We’re really at the beginning of this whole thing,” he said. “There’s going to be some education and monitoring so we can get over all these concerns people have, are they using it, how much is it costing and are we losing any business.”

The City Council can decide to alter, replace or repeal the program after the first year, according to the ordinance.

Linda Girardi is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.

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