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Who gets Minneapolis' 5-cent bag fee money? Has it made an environmental impact?

Do bag fees actually help reduce waste?
Do bag fees actually help reduce waste? 02:38

MINNEAPOLIS — It's a convenience that comes at a cost. Consumers must pay 5 cents a bag, for paper or plastic, in Minneapolis and Duluth.

The fees are an attempt to get you to think twice before using one after the state essentially banned a ban on single-use bags seven years ago. It's something more than a dozen other states have done as well.

State Rep. Sydney Jordan, DFL-Minneapolis, wants to change that.

"Right now, 40% of what is going into landfills and incinerators in Minnesota is coming from packaging," Jordan said. "So that plastic is having a huge effect on our environment and our human health."

She introduced a bill this session to allow bag bans, citing clogged sewer drains and recycling equipment, and microplastics in our water supply as downstream effects of your grocery run routine.

"It would be up to cities and city council members to craft these ordinances to serve their communities best," she said.

It didn't go anywhere this year. So, are the current fees helping? And are fees actually helping to cut down on plastic use or waste? It's hard to tell because Minneapolis and Duluth don't track it.   


Washington D.C. has had a similar 5-cent fee since 2009. Within six months, the city found that 75% of residents used fewer bags, and most businesses used half as many bags. The money goes to a river cleanup fund, generating millions each year.

So what happens to the fees in Minnesota? In Minneapolis and Duluth, the money goes back to the store charging the fee. From there, they can do what they want with it.

Still, some say it's not enough as we try to tackle our own waste woes.

"Cities are asking for more tools to be able to deal with waste properly, and this is one of the tools that cities are asking for," Jordan said.

Beginning July 1, Edina businesses will start charging 5 cents for a carryout bag. Like Minneapolis and Duluth, the city won't collect that money.

In Edina though, merchants will be required to report how much they take in each year.

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