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F-M officials begin talks to reduce use of plastic bags

A plastic bag rests against the fence Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, at the Fargo landfill. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO — City officials here and in Moorhead are joining forces to find a way to reduce the use of plastic grocery bags, not by banning them but by persuasion.

Fargo City Commissioner John Strand, who suggested a ban while campaigning last spring, said he now favors a more "positive, proactive" approach. He said that could include handing out free reusable bags and running a public education campaign.

Moorhead City Council member Sara Watson Curry said she doesn't think it's a good idea to make it feel like a "punishment."

Strand and Watson Curry held an initial meeting Friday, March 10, with stakeholders such as landfill officials, a Clay County commissioner and a representative of the North Dakota Grocers Association.

Strand and Watson Curry said there are sound environmental, aesthetic and fiscal reasons for reducing the use of plastic bags. Non-biodegradable bags, both said, can harm wildlife when swallowed, tend to fly away easily creating litter and, for that reason, requires both cities' landfills to hire workers to round them up.

Strand said his goal is to have a plan the cities can announce by Earth Day, which is commemorated on April 22.

Watson Curry said the timing is also important because the cities are starting no-sort recycling programs in July. This may cause some residents to think anything plastic can be recycled, she said, when in reality the program won't be able to accept plastic bags, which can tangle up the sorting machinery.

Plastic bags can be recycled but not as part of a no-sort program.

The discussion is still in the early stages, Strand said, and there has been no talk of using city funds.

Tu-Uyen Tran
Tran is an enterprise reporter with the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began his newspaper career in 1999 as a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, now owned by Forum Communications. He began working for the Forum in September 2014. Tran grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.
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