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Councilman Says 'Conversation' Needed on Plastic Bag Ban in Louisville

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Louisville Metro Council members want to revisit a ban on plastic bags used for yard waste.

It’s been about a year since the city's solid waste board put the ban in place, and Republican Metro Councilman Kelly Downard wants lawmakers to talk about it. On Tuesday, he introduced a measure to reverse the ban, hoping to spark a broader public conversation.

“What this really is the ability for us to sit back and say, ‘OK we have done this for year, how did you do it and why did you do it and then, has it worked? All those things that were supposed to have happened — did they really happen?’” Downard said. “We get to ask those questions because they sort of did it all on their own, and we want to find out if it worked.”

Early this year, the Jefferson County Waste Management Board banned plastic bags for waste pickup without the council's input. Because most leaves and grass clippings were put in plastic bags prior to the ban, the city was unable to compost them.

As of this summer, the ban had been going smoothly, officials said. About 20,000 leaflets were left with homeowners, and by this summer, only 356 homes were still using plastic bags for yard waste disposal during a collection, according to the board's numbers from the time.

But Downard said he doesn't just want to talk about whether the ban is working. He said he wants to talk about whether the board should have put the ban in place to begin with — instead of allowing the council to vet the ban through a public process.

“We also need to have a frank conversation of responsibilities of departments,” Downard said.

Mayor Greg Fischer is a strong supporter of the ban. His spokesman, Chris Poynter, told The Courier-Journal that Downard's proposal would be a "huge step backward."

"The ban on plastic bags is good for the environment, good for the landfill and citizens get it," he said. "It’s a non-issue. There is simply no need to change it.”

But Democratic Metro Councilman Rick Blackwell said he thinks it’s a conversation worth having.

“That doesn’t mean that we should reverse the decision or whatever, but I don’t think it ever hurts for us have the community conversation about, what are the effects of any policy,” Blackwell said.

For years, the agency had asked Metro Council members to enact a plastic bag ban, but they never did.