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City Council delays action on single-use plastics resolution

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 5/24/2019, 6 a.m.
Cities across the country and around the world are banning plastic straws, cutlery, bags and other single-use products that are ...

Cities across the country and around the world are banning plastic straws, cutlery, bags and other single-use products that are clogging waterways and harming fish, birds, whales and other wildlife.

But Richmond, which is not authorized by state law to impose such a ban, is struggling to go on record on the issue.

Despite seven members of Richmond City Council supporting a resolution calling on City Hall, residents and private businesses to “recycle and reduce the use of single-use plastics,” the matter has been tabled until council’s meeting on Monday, July 22.

Behind the scenes, the council has put off action to avoid a conflict with the Clean City Commission, an appointed body whose activities include focusing on reducing litter.

M. Jane Hotchkiss, chair of the commission, has strongly objected to the council passing a resolution without input from the CCC.

“We already had begun to work on this issue when this resolution was introduced without any notification,” Ms. Hotchkiss said, furious that the commission appeared to be ignored.

She successfully argued in the council’s Education and Human Services Committee meeting on May 2 that City Council should put off any action until the commission completes its work and sends recommendations to the council.

Ms. Hotchkiss did not explain how passage of the resolution would interfere with the commission’s effort. But the committee chair, 4th District Councilwoman Kristen N. Larson, who is listed as a co-patron of the resolution, confirmed that the resolution was put on hold to avoid a spat.

Ms. Hotchkiss also would not say when the commission’s recommendations on reducing plastic waste would be ready.

Councilman Parker C. Agelasto, 5th District, was joined by three other council members when he introduced the resolution at the end of March amid rising concerns about environmental damage caused by single-use plastics.

Cigarette butts are the most common litter found along waterways, according to state and national data, but plastic water bottles, plastic grocery bags, plastic straws and stirrers and plastic bottle caps collectively rank No. 2.

Along with Ms. Larson, council co-patrons of the resolution initially included 1st District Councilman Andreas D. Addison and Council President Cynthia I. Newbille, 7th District.

Since its introduction, three other members have asked to be listed as co-patrons, including Ellen F. Robertson, 6th District; Reva M. Trammell, 8th District; and Michael J. Jones, 9th District.