Seattle Proposes Plastic Bag Ban

Seattle Proposes Plastic Bag Ban

Seattle’s city council has proposed a ban of single-use plastic bags.

If approved, Council Bill 117345 would take effect six months later. In addition to banning plastic bags, the ordinance calls for retailers to charge consumers a five-cent fee if they don’t bring reusable bags. Retailers would retain the fee to help cover the cost of switching to paper bags.

The ordinance follows closely a law passed in upstate Bellingham in July of this year. The council said in a news release that legislative consistency was crucial for retailers to adapt their business operations. Seattle voters rejected a proposed ordinance in 2009.

The legislation in particular is trying to clean up Puget Sound. "These bags provide minutes of use for us as consumers, but because they are not biodegradable (they) are with us in the environment for hundreds of years," said the bill’s primary sponsor, Councilmember Mike O'Brien.

Seattle has a recycling goal of 60 percent by 2012 and 70 percent by 2025. At the end of 2010 the rate was 53.7 percent. Seattle uses approximately 292 plastic bags annually.

Seattle Public Utilities would be responsible for educating Seattle businesses to help the transition to a new law if it passes. The utilities' solid waste division also would manage monitoring and enforcement of the ban.

One grocer, PCC Natural Markets (PCC), supports the proposal. The retailer discontinued offering plastic bags to customers in 2007.

"PCC wholeheartedly endorses this highly visible and impactful step the city of Seattle is taking to reduce the considerable and unnecessary waste generated by the distribution of single-use plastic shopping bags," said Tracy Wolpert, PCC chief executive officer, in a news release.

But plastic bag manufacturer Hilex Poly objected to the proposal in a letter to council, preferring instead a more statewide approach, according to the Seattle Times. The company was not immediately available for comment.

A recent report by Environment Washington examines plastic bags and their effect on marine life.

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