Clarkston moves toward citywide ban on single-use plastics

Clarkston, Morrow and Riverdale collected outsized fees from traffic stops and code violations, according to a study from a group that studies citation taxing. (ALYSSA POINTER/

Clarkston, Morrow and Riverdale collected outsized fees from traffic stops and code violations, according to a study from a group that studies citation taxing. (ALYSSA POINTER/

The City of Clarkston hopes to follow the lead of Atlanta and other U.S. cities that have passed bans on single-use plastic items.

Clarkston City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday laying the groundwork for an ordinance that would outlaw items like plastic shopping bags and plastic foam containers from the city’s businesses. The resolution directs the Clarkston city attorney to write an ordinance to be voted on in May 2020, according to the resolution.

READ | Atlanta City Council votes in favor of plastics ban

The Clarkston vote comes on the heels of Atlanta City Council passing a similar ban on single-use plastics in city buildings and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Clarkston’s ban would affect all businesses in the city, including gas stations, restaurants, and the city’s grocery store. Once approved, it would begin with a year-long “phase out” process to allow businesses time to find substitutions for the single-use plastic items that they’re currently using and seek out possible subsidies and incentives, Mayor Ted Terry said. The goal is to have single-use plastics eliminated from the city by 2021, Terry said.

The Atlanta legislation, which is awaiting approval by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, would also have a “phase out” period. Atlanta’s ordinance would take effect on or before Dec. 31, 2020.

Clarkston’s 2020 budget includes $20,000 for environmental projects, and a “significant amount” of that money will go toward incentives to help the city’s businesses switch to reusable, compostable or otherwise sustainable options, Terry said. Terry hopes the switch will encourage more people to patronize Clarkston businesses and boost the city’s economy, he said.

“It’s a much more powerful economic growth argument than what some see as a small increase in the cost of packaging,” Terry said.

The small DeKalb city intends to model the future ordinance after those implemented in other municipalities around the country, from the Charleston suburb of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina to the metropolitan hubs of Boston and Portland, Oregon.

“From their perspective, they have been very successful, very popular and haven’t caused these doom and gloom scenarios you hear about from the plastic industry,” Terry said.”When we talk about phasing out the plastic, people say it’s going to hurt the consumer, hurt the businesses and it’s going to cost too much money. It’s already costing us — cost to clean up waste, add additional tonnage to landfills, cost to our air and water resources. We are paying for it now. The sooner our society shifts away from these petroleum derived products, the sooner we will see the benefits for people.”

These cities explicitly ban items including styrofoam and plastic straws; Clarkston intends to take a similar approach by adding an “acceptable packaging and products” chapter to its city code.

Terry, who is running for U.S. Senate, says that while he touts his mayoral achievements in his campaign, the move toward a plastics ban is for the benefit of the city.

“This is not me doing it, it is just mayor and city council doing it,” Terry said. “But it takes people to be leaders and push things forward for things to happen.”

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It's all connected to a current forgery investigation into the program.