Council members on fence about plastic ban for yard waste


by Brooke Hasch

Posted on May 8, 2014 at 11:51 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11)-- The debate over paper versus plastic for your front and back yard is growing.

The Solid Waste Board, with the Waste Management District, recently voted to ban all plastic bags from curbside yard waste collection in Jefferson County.

A number of Metro Council members are on the fence about the issue. Some are worried about the added costs, while others are more concerned that an entity other than the council made the decision.

Chris Lutz, a Highlands resident, says he's in agreement with the ban. He said he's used paper yard waste bags for years, even though they might cost a bit more in change.

"We've always used them, makes sense. It's a biodegradable bag. It makes sense to put yard waste in it," Lutz said.

It was the same argument officials with the Solid Waste Board made to the Metro Council Thursday afternoon. Council members voiced concerns on the cost and efficiency of the ban.

"We're going to be mandating to people that not only they use a bag that's 30 percent more costly to them, and if they don't we'll fine them for not using the right bag. It just seems to me very intrusive," Jerry Miller, from District 19, said.

Board members emphasized the many alternatives to plastic bags including the cheapest, a reusable plastic container, similar to that of a recycling tub residents already use. Other ideas included mulch, compost and eco-friendly plastic and paper bags.

"I think if you're doing yard work on a regular basis, it might become a bit of a burden, but for a spring cleanup or something in the fall, where you have high capacity of waste, I think they're just fine," Lutz said.

Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, from district 9, says this plastic ban should have happened years ago.

"It is a small step toward being a sustainable community. We are called to be stewards of this planet and this really is a baby step to be quite honest with you and is far too long overdue in moving to this next step," Pugh said.

The problem councilman Miller addressed was the enforcement of the ban throughout the county. He asked who would have the authority to fine violators. The Solid Waste Board didn't have the answer. Instead, it said the ban centers more on education than enforcement.

"If you have the right to assess a fine and you don't assess that fine which is what we were essentially told today, then we are passing more laws that people are going to ignore," Miller said.

Right now, yard waste is used as a cover over other waste at the landfill. But if plastic isn't a factor, it can be reused for other resources within the city.

"It makes no sense to be able to pick up yard waste and not be able to use it. That's a very big cost with little return," Pete Flood, with the Waste Management District said.

"It seems like one small thing to do and I don't have a lot of time and energy to sit around and get upset about a couple plastic bags versus a couple paper bags. At the end of the day, it's what I've been doing and I'm going to continue to do it," Lutz said.

There is no set date for when the ban will take effect. The Solid Waste Board will meet on May 27 for further discussion on the issue.