Paper or plastic? It’s a question we hear every time we go to the grocery store. Soon, shoppers and merchants in Traverse City may lose that option. Last week, representatives from the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) put a proposal before city commissioners to ban the use of single-use plastic bags in Traverse City.

Commissioners didn’t enact an ordinance, but they did pass a resolution encouraging city and city businesses to implement the use of recyclable and reusable containers and bags, such as those the Downtown Traverse City Association created and began selling for $1 at local merchants last summer. 

Representatives from NMEAC hope to meet soon with downtown merchants to discuss their questions and concerns relative to of the proposed ban. M’Lynn Hartwell, a member of the Clean Energy Now national initiative and NMEAC spokesperson, says if a ban happened, it would be a win-win situation for all. "It would improve environmental quality and the cost of doing business," she says. "If we do it right, everybody wins. That’s what we’re trying to achieve." She adds that Traverse City merchants could put their logo on reusable bags and use them as a way to help develop their brand identity.

Hartwell says, ideally, the proposed ordinance would phase in a ban over time. "It would happen organically," she says.

Would plastic be totally eliminated? Would a shopper unfamiliar with the ban have no option for carrying his goods out of the store unless he had a reusable sack handy? Hartwell says there’s talk of keeping single-use plastic bags available but associating a small charge to the shopper for using each one during the phase out period to encourage the switch to reusable bags. 

Speak Out!

What do you think of the proposed ban? Would you like to see single-use plastic bags banished from Traverse City? Or do you think there’s a better option? What should shoppers, merchants and NMEAC consider while weighing the ban? Tell us what you think by commenting below!

Photo(s) by Courtesy of Traverse City DDA