Members of the Geauga Plastics Coalition met June 26 at Geauga West Library and discussed concerns about House Bill 242 aimed at preventing local municipalities from banning single-use plastic bags typically used for groceries or retail shopping.

Kevin Peterca, who has coordinated the newly formed group, said a vote on the bill likely will not occur until this fall since the Ohio General Assembly is heading for summer recess.

Orange Village Council and the Cuyahoga County Council both approved a ban on single-use plastic bags in grocery and retail establishments. Orange’s ban is in effect. The county’s begins next year.

Mr. Peterca urged residents to ask their state lawmakers to vote against HB 242. “This is crucial and would have a significant impact on bags and pollution,” he said.

“They are not going to allow the prohibition of single-use plastic bags if this bill gets passed,” Mr. Peterca said of the bill. It goes against the home-rule beliefs, he added. “People locally should be able to do what is right in their own communities. But they are telling local communities what they can or can’t do,” he said.

The members of the Geauga Plastics Coalition will also be contacting some select retail stores in the area about the use of plastic bags for groceries at the check-out registers. Some stores are opposed to the ban because the alternative, paper bags, are five times more expensive than plastic bags for the stores to purchase, Mr. Peterca noted.

“Paper bags are not the ideal solution. We want to go to cloth bags.”

“We are trying to be persistent,” he said of letting the stores know how they can reduce and hopefully eliminate plastic bag use.

One of the great ideas discussed, he said, is to train store clerks to encourage customers to carry reusable cloth bags.

The group also plans to distribute information to vendors at farm markets, he said.

The plastic bags cause pollution in waterways and other areas, he said.

As an option, customers can request their goods be packaged in paper instead of plastic, Mr. Peterca said, and encourage store managers to verbally give people that choice.

In general, there is a mixture of people with some who are adamantly opposed to single-use plastic bags while there are others who think the matter is exaggerated and are in favor of using them, he said.

“We are going to try to team up with vendors or tents at the Great Geauga County Fair with the hope of having a presence at the event,” Mr. Peterca said. “We would like to significantly reduce plastic pollution in Geauga County.

“We want people to think twice about using plastic bags, changing old habits and not walking out of a store with 16 plastic bags,” he added.

When people throw plastic bags in the trash, on a windy day those bags can take off and eventually end up in the local waterways, lakes and even the ocean. A study has shown there are 100 million pieces of micro-plastic in Lake Erie, he said.

“We have plans to work with schools and present information to students about recycling and about the problems of plastic bags,” he said. It is one way of educating people about recycling. “There are some really great ideas out there. We are also committed to refusing plastic straws. We suggest that waitresses ask patrons if they would like a straw or not and even to stop providing them. They could consider paper straws,” he said.

For more information visit www.surfrider.org

Those interested in joining the group can attend the next meetings or contact Mr. Peterca at 216-312-3440 or by email at hickpryman@gmail.com. The coalition is also now on Facebook.

“I’m honored to work with a group generating creative and productive suggestions and ideas,” Mr. Peterca said.

“We are starting to gain steam,” he said of the coalition’s mission. The next group meetings are 7 p.m. on July 17 at the Geauga West Library and 7 p.m. Aug. 13 at the Chardon Public Library.

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