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New Orleans shoppers may have to pay for bags at grocery stores

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

New Orleans shoppers could end up paying more at the grocery store if they don't bring their own shopping bags, and some question why the businesses would be cashing in.

Oyster dressing or sweet potato casserole. These are the types of decisions shoppers have to make two days before Thanksgiving, but they may soon have another thing to ponder: to pay for bags or bring your own.

“Seems a little bit over the top to be charging for the paper bags,” New Orleans resident Jimmy Walsh said.

But that's what two New Orleans City Council members are proposing.

“I'm fine with that, I end up, even with the recycle, with way too much stuff at home. It makes sense to bring your own bags,” said Kristin Hendricks.
           
The proposal, authored by Susan Guidry and Latoya Cantrell, calls for a fee to be imposed on customers - 5 cents for paper bags, 10 cents for plastic - in an effort to encourage more shoppers to bring reusable bags from home.

“It just makes sense. In addition to cutting down trees unnecessarily to make paper bags, the plastic bags blow all over the place, its litter,” Karen Geiger said.
 
New Orleans isn’t the only city to consider charging people for bags. Many other places around the country have already done it and some have even banned plastic. Seattle, Chicago, Portland and Austin are just a few. But would the idea work here?

Resident Troy Bush doesn’t think so.

“You have to look at how this community is going to be affected," he said. "You have some people that are economically disadvantaged, so are you going to tax the poor?”

Max Ciolino, president of No Waste NOLA, worked closely with Susan Guidry on the idea.

“The problem is massive," he said. "Plastic bags are one of the highest littered, right behind cigarette butts.”

Council members say there would be many exemptions from the fee, if passed, such as for people who receive public assistance. It also calls for the money collected to go not to the city, but back to the businesses.

“There was some issue of whether the city government would be able to collect that money from the businesses without state legislative approval and so in the interest of actually getting a waste reduction ordinance through, the current ordinance leaves all of it with the business,” Ciolino said. 
           
The council still must debate the issue before voting on it, but Ciolino says if the rest of the country is making similar strides to help the environment, it's only a matter of time before New Orleans does too.

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