In the Bag: Dubuque City Council’s Ban Proposal

DUBUQUE, IA – With the modern emphasis on the environment, plastic bags have come under scrutiny as potentially harmful products to local ecosystems. In an effort to be more environmentally friendly, the city of Dubuque began looking into the possibility of banning plastic grocery bags.


While a fee or ban on plastic bags has been considered off and on for the past ten years, the current discussion started in November 2016 when a group of Loras College honors students proposed that the city should implement such an ordinance. They argued for a fee that stores would charge on plastic bags, and that the funds could be used for other city projects.

The city attorney and other departments said that charging a fee could cause legal problems for the city, so it would be better to come up with a different plan to handle the plastic bag situation.

Last Monday, February 6, the City Council met and voted four to three to begin serious consideration of a ban on plastic bags. They agreed that they would start by researching what would work as an ordinance, and how best to enforce it.

Council member Ric Jones voted for the ordinance, as he feels that something needs to be done about the problem. He also recognized, however, that there could be potential problems from the ban, “…there are some things that each of us can do right now, to use more and more of the reusable bags. Now it’s important that we use those judiciously, there’s a health concerning using them sometimes…”

Jones was especially concerned about how meat and produce could become cross-contaminated if reusable bags were used for different items and not cleaned between uses.

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Even if the city council eventually decides to pursue this initiative, it could be stopped by a state bill instead.

Starting on Tuesday, February 7, the Iowa State Legislature has been considering its own bill. Based on welfare and other labor aspects, House Study Bill 92 also includes provisions that would limit the ways cities in Iowa can regulate consumer goods. It would mean that cities could not pass their own bans on plastic bags-it would have to be done at the state level. As of Friday, the proposal has passed the legislature and has gone to the State Senate for their input.

The Dubuque City Council will not make a final decision about the ban until the state bill succeeds or fails.

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