Council to discuss single-use shopping bag fee

Fayetteville could soon take another step toward moving the city away from single-use materials that end up in landfills.

City Council members this week will consider a proposal to enact a fee for shoppers who don’t bring their own bags to some food stores.

A 10-cent charge would be added for each single-use plastic or paper shopping bag used by a customer at stores that sell food and are larger than 10,000 square feet in size. It would not include produce or meat bags distributed inside a store prior to checkout.

The council last year voted unanimously to consider such a regulation, and to direct city staff to study the idea. What followed was a survey which gathered responses from 2,167 residents and 154 businesses.

Staff said 60% of respondents supported a 10-cent fee on single-use bags, and 58% said they would bring reusable bags or use fewer disposable bags at checkout if a bag fee were enacted.

The entire fee would be kept by the store to offset costs associated with the new rule. Any leftover money must be invested by the store into a community environmental benefit, such as providing reusable bags, litter cleanup or recycling education.

City Attorney Kit Williams said if the city took the money it could be considered a tax, which would require voter approval.

Stores that are larger than 10,000 square feet include all grocery stores within the city limits as well as retailers like CVS, Walgreens, Target and Walmart. The fee would not apply to small ethnic grocery stores, specialty grocery stores, convenience stores, hardware stores, department stores or restaurants.

Customers purchasing food with SNAP, food stamps and WIC would be exempt from paying the fee.

The charge would be added by a cashier, but customers using self-checkout would be required to type in how many bags they used.

Retailers would provide quarterly bag sales numbers to the city, and would be required to post signage notifying customers of the rule.

If approved, bag reporting would begin in October, but the fee wouldn’t apply until Jan. 1, 2021. The three-month reporting period before implementation would provide data to compare bag use before and after the fee.

Council members will discuss the proposal at the next regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 3 inside City Hall room 219.