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Louisville Residents Won't Be Able to Use Plastic Bags for Yard Waste Anymore

Soon, Louisville residents won't be allowed to pack yard waste in plastic bags—but just how soon is yet to be determined.The Metro Solid Waste Board unanimously approved a proposal Tuesday night that bans the use of plastic bags for yard waste removal.When to put the ordinance in effect, however, was not so unanimous.Some supporters and board members pushed for the decision to go into effect at the beginning of next year to give suppliers of paper bag and reusable bins—which are what residents will have to start using—time to stock shelves.“We don’t want to have the excuse of suppliers not having enough paper bags,”  Middletown Mayor Byron Chapman said.The movement to push back implementation to the beginning of the year  was also to give residents the opportunity to get comfortable with the new rule.Chapman said implementing the ordinance this fall, which are peak times for leaf and stick clean up, may result in an outcome similar to the salt shortage during that happened this winter.But Sarah Lynn Cunningham, a member of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee and an environmental engineer, disagreed.She said sometimes it is best to “bite the bullet and get on with it.”Cunningham said she believed it should be implemented in 30 to 90 days.“Modern day American citizens need at least 30 days so they don’t just go into a tizzy, but if you give them more than 90 days they’ll stop preparing,” she said.The board has yet to decide when the ordinance will take effect. It's set to make a decision in the June meeting. Update: The meeting will be May 27.Concern for plastic bag use comes after waste that some assumed went to compost was actually going to landfills, because the plastic bags the leaves and such were put in couldn't be composted.Cunningham said the problem has gone on long enough.  She also presented the board with a petition with more than 1,000 names in support of the ordinance.“I have a problem with us having all these trucks driving up and down the roads and having all these workers collecting all this stuff and paying extra money for composting, but it not getting composted, and put into the landfill,” she said.  “That is not good government, it’s not good public policy, it’s not good for the environment.”Metro Councilman Jerry Miller, a Republican from the 19th district, said he opposed the decision being implemented by the Solid Waste Board, though he does understand the importance of recycling.“The issue is an unelected board is going to impose something on the citizens that is going to have a significant impact on many of them,” he said.  "Particularly fixed income, elderly, some that can’t physically do what others can.  And I just see that it is going to be a serious problem.”Miller said this is an attempt by Mayor Greg Fischer to avoid legitimate avenues of ordinance implementation.“The mayor brought this to us last year and could not get it passed, he get the support,” he said.  “So, the mayor has decided to do an end-run around the elected representative of the people and take it to a group he controls.”

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.