Plastic bag fees, mandatory recycling part of Dayton strategy



Dayton residents and businesses could face a new fee for plastic shopping bags, a prohibition on trashing recyclable materials and other measures to help the environment.

These are just some of the more than 100 action steps recommended by a new sustainability strategy endorsed by Dayton’s elected leadership.

The new framework seeks to make the city greener by reducing pollution, carbon emissions and fossil fuel consumption and increasing investments in and use of alternative energy and energy-efficient equipment and systems, said Mark Charles, Dayton’s sustainability manager.

“We have to take action now,” Charles said. “We developed this strategy to make Dayton more sustainable, and it’s a strategy ― not an implementation plan ― because we wanted to articulate what our goals and focus areas are.”

However, some prominent members of the business community have raised concerns, like with the proposed mandatory recycling requirement for commercial companies and the plastic bag fee.

“The Chamber has a long history of supporting energy sustainability and we continue to be an advocate,” said Chris Kershner, president and CEO of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. “We support the efforts of Mayor (Nan) Whaley and the city of to identify ways to make Dayton more sustainable, we just want to make sure the business community isn’t hurt in the process.”

Five-year strategy

Last month, the Dayton City Commission approved an emergency resolution officially adopting a 57-page document called a “Strategy for a Sustainable Dayton.

The strategy is packed with 115 recommendations for the next five years to make the city more environmentally friendly and resilient and outlines steps intended to help Dayton halt, mitigate or adapt to rising global temperatures and other environmental concerns, officials say.

The strategy advocates for energy-efficient upgrades while also pushing for sustainable initiatives that consider the impact on equity, environmental justice and economic growth, said Meg Maloney, a University of Dayton graduate student who is interning with the city’s the sustainability office.

The strategy is a working document that should evolve over the five-year timeline, she said.

The sustainability plan reinforces some of the work already underway by the city, but it also introduces some new and innovative initiatives, said Dayton Deputy City Manager Joe Parlette.

The details

The strategy calls on the city commission to adopt a resolution declaring a climate emergency. It also encourages the city to find a way to eliminate single-use and impossible-to-recycle materials from the waste stream, like Styrofoam.

The framework encourages city leadership to amend Dayton’s solid waste management code to prohibit people from putting recyclable materials in the trash.

According to the strategy, the city also should consider creating a fee (possibly of about 5 cents) to discourage shoppers from using single-use plastic bags at commercial retail stores.

The city could let businesses keep 2 to 3 cents of the fee to provide an incentive to assist with collecting, tracking and reporting the fees. The proposal recommends exempting restaurants that use plastic bags for to-go purposes.

The framework also says the city also should consider establishing a mandatory recycling rate for commercial waste customers.

Last month, the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Dayton’s sustainability manager saying it is concerned about multiple aspects of the strategy that could be costly for businesses.

The letter says a mandatory plastic bag fee and mandatory recycling rate for commercial entities will be overly burdensome to already hard-hit companies and voluntary incentive programs would be a better way for the city to achieve its sustainability goals.

The chamber says providing flexibility and incentivizing compliance would be more useful than penalizing noncompliance and increased regulations. The chamber said it was frustrated the city decided to move forward with its plan without getting adequate input from the chamber, which represents 2,300 businesses and organizations.

“If you are going to pass a plan that directly impacts the Dayton business community, then input from the Dayton business community should be part of the plan,” Kershner said.

Other recommendations

The strategy also recommends banning natural gas fracking inside municipal limits. City officials, however, say would be mostly symbolic since there are not significant natural gas resources in the ground under Dayton.

The strategy also says the city should consider requiring all new residential and commercial buildings to include green features, like upgraded insulation, energy-efficient appliances or other technology.

The strategy suggests the city should add solar panels, green roofs and green infrastructure like “street rain gardens” to capture stormwater. Dayton’s two closed golf courses could be blanketed with solar panels to help power nearby city facilities.

The framework encourages the city to install new electric vehicle charging stations at some municipal facilities and consider buying or leasing electric cars and light trucks.

The city, the strategy says, should consider putting charging stations in public areas for the public to use either for free or at discounted rates, at least in the first few years of operation.

The strategy additionally suggests providing all residents with a recycling cart and increasing recycling collections to once a week instead of once every two weeks.

The framework also recommends converting lighting to LED technology, reducing reliance on paper, promoting the redevelopment of brownfield sites, investing in mobile solar units to power emergency shelters and facilities and modifying zoning and building code to remove barriers to green technology and other energy-efficient investments.

What’s next

An initial draft of the strategy was primarily focused on internal processes and operations in the city, but the final draft was revised to make it clear the framework supports economic development, especially when it comes to contributing to a greener and more sustainable economy, Charles said.

The city’s sustainability office now will start to sit down and work with each city department and division to formulate an implementation plan, Charles said.

The strategy, which has taken about a year to develop, attempts to reaffirm that climate change and other environmental concerns are important and urgent priorities that can impact citizens’ lives, Charles said.

The goal is to undertake all of the projects over the next five years, Charles said, adding that many projects have little to no cost, while more pricey projects will lead to cost savings.

“All of the projects in the strategy have been done by one or more other communities, so we are not way out on a limb all by ourselves with most of these,” Charles said.

Dayton City Commissioner Matt Joseph said the city will work to implement the recommendations with the largest benefits first.

“I am looking forward to working our way through this list and see what we can put into place,” he said. “This is a really good vision for a sustainable future for the city.”

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