In city survey, about half of respondents support a ban on disposable plastic bags in Lawrence

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

Lawrence-Douglas County Sustainability Director Jasmin Moore, corner right, presents results from a public survey about disposable bags to the Sustainability Advisory Board as part of its meeting Dec. 11, 2019.

Just over half of respondents to a city survey about potential ordinances regarding disposable plastic and paper bags indicated they favored banning plastic bags, a city advisory panel learned Wednesday.

Lawrence-Douglas County Sustainability Director Jasmin Moore presented results from the survey to the Sustainability Advisory Board as part of its regular meeting. Moore said more than 600 people completed the survey and that the results, along with some demographic data provided by respondents, would be forwarded to the Lawrence City Commission.

“In general, this is good information to have so the City Commission can be aware of at least what 600-plus people feel about this issue,” Moore said.

The city conducted the online survey because the City Commission has indicated it is interested in either a fee or a ban on single-use bags. The survey asked residents to pick from several approaches to disposable bags: charging a fee for plastic and paper bags; banning plastic bags and charging a fee for paper bags; charging a fee for plastic bags and no fee for paper bags; or banning plastic bags and not charging a fee for paper bags. Respondents who didn’t support any of those approaches could mark “other” on the survey.

About 50.4% of respondents indicated they were in favor of a policy that includes a ban on plastic bags. More specifically, draft results of the survey indicate that 32.4% of respondents were in favor of a ban on plastic bags and no fee for paper bags and 18% were in favor of a ban on plastic bags and a fee for paper bags. About 13% of respondents were in favor of a fee for plastic and no fee for paper, and 7.8% were in favor of a fee for both types of bags, meaning that about 39% of respondents were in favor of some kind of fee. The remainder of the respondents, or 30%, picked the “other” option, meaning that about 70% of respondents favored a ban, a fee or some combination of the two.

As part of the public feedback process, the city also collected comments from residents via email and at public meetings. Moore said those comments would be provided to the commission along with the survey results.

The board originally recommended that the city charge a 16-cent fee for single-use plastic and paper bags, but it later updated that recommendation to indicate it would also support a ban, as the Journal-World reported. Originally, the board wanted the city to collect the proceeds from the fee, but it determined that option was not feasible due to legal issues and that if a fee would be charged it would be retained by the business.

Board members Michael Steinle and Rachel Krause said the board ought to support a policy that reduces overall resource use the most. Krause said the board’s research had determined that two methods in particular would have the greatest impact: a fee on both kinds of single-use bags, or a ban on plastic and a fee on paper.

“My concern about simply a ban on plastic is that’s simply going to shift consumption, and I don’t think that’s going to actually end up being a better result,” Krause said. “We’ll get a different result, but not a better one.”

Moore said that the topic will go to the City Commission for discussion sometime in January.


Related stories

Nov. 22 — Lawrence residents share opinions on proposals to ban or charge for plastic and paper bags

Nov. 7 — Sustainability board now supports plastic bag ban or fee; city to consider both options

Aug. 13 — Lawrence City Commission expresses support for plastic and paper bag fee or ban; more research will be done

July 2 — Sustainability Advisory Board advances proposal to charge 16-cent fee for single-use bags

June 28 — Lawrence shoppers have mixed emotions on proposed 16-cent fee for single-use bags

June 25 — Sustainability Advisory Board to consider recommendation to charge for disposable plastic and paper bags in Lawrence

Oct. 12, 2018 — Research, focus groups underway regarding potential ban for plastic bags, straws, other plastic products

Aug. 24, 2018 — Dillons’ parent company begins phasing out plastic bags at stores

July 27, 2018 — City board to look at ban for plastic bags, straws, other plastic products

May 21, 2018 — Lawrence fourth-graders start discussion at City Hall about plastic bag ban

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