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Seattle bans plastic grocery bags. Again.

The Seattle City Council on Monday passed a bill that will ban plastic bags from Seattle stores and add a nickel fee for paper bags in legislation that could be the base for new rules across the entire state. From the Seattle Times:

Seattle City Council bans plastic shopping bags
The fight over plastic bags could move to the Legislature in the coming session as environmentalists seek to expand the ban unanimously approved Monday by the Seattle City Council to the entire state.

At the same time, the plastics industry, which poured $1.4 million into defeating a 20-cent Seattle disposable-bag fee in 2009, suggested it would seek statewide legislation to encourage recycling, rather than fighting bans in every city. Full story >

It’s the second attempt to ban plastic bags in the city. Voter rejection of a 2009 referendum overturned a previous ban.

Here’s the Council’s statement on the bill passed on Monday:

Today the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to pass Council Bill 117345, a bill to protect Puget Sound and protect marine wildlife by banning plastic carry-out bags. The bill encourages the use of reusable shopping bags by requiring grocers and retailers to charge a nickel for paper bags. 

Washingtonians use more than 2 billion single-use plastic bags each year. Seattle alone uses approximately 292 million plastic bags annually, only 13% of which are recycled, according to Seattle Public Utilities.

“This bill is a great example of a broad and diverse coalition of people and organizations coming together to do the right thing for our environment,” said prime sponsor, City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, chair of the Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee. “We have the support of grocers, retailers, restaurants, labor unions, and environmental organizations in Seattle. We also have broad grassroots involvement from residents who have been emailing and calling in support of this issue for months now.”

Environmental organizations in support of the plastic bag ban include Environment Washington, People for Puget Sound, Surfrider Foundation, Sierra Club, and Zero Waste Seattle. The bill is also supported by the Northwest Grocery Association, the Washington Restaurant Association, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, and some local independent grocers, such as Metropolitan Market, Town & Country Markets, PCC, and Central Co-op.

“We know that recycling alone cannot protect Puget Sound and our ocean waters from these plastic bags,” said Councilmember O’Brien. “Of course people are not intentionally littering their bags into Puget Sound, but with so many in circulation, bags are ending up there, causing real damage to habitats and wildlife. Bringing our own reusable bags when we go shopping is a simple step we can all take that will protect our environment and reduce unnecessary waste.”

“In the last few years, we have learned much more about how much plastic is in Puget Sound and the impact it has on marine wildlife,” said Katrina Rosen, Field Director for Environment Washington. “Banning plastic bags is an important step we must take to protect Puget Sound wildlife and we are happy to see City Council stepping up to be a part of this growing global movement.”

Seattle is the fourth city in Washington to ban plastic bags following Edmonds, Bellingham, and, most recently, Mukilteo. Regionally, Seattle joins the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Kauai, more than a dozen municipalities in California—such as San Francisco, San Jose, Malibu, and Los Angeles County—more than 30 coastal towns in Alaska, and neighboring Portland in taking action against plastic bags. Additionally, at least 20 nations have also enacted efforts to reduce or eliminate plastic bag use, including Germany, Ireland, China, Taiwan, India, and Kenya.

The ordinance will go into effect July 1, 2012. Seattle Public Utilities will be responsible for outreach to businesses and public education over the next six months and after the law takes effect. The utilities’ solid waste division will also monitor and enforce the ordinance.


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25 thoughts on “Seattle bans plastic grocery bags. Again.” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. The last time I was on Maui, with plastic bags banned, all the shops simply handed out paper bags. Paper bags require more resources than plastic bags to produce and distribute. Most “reusable” bags are made of plastic (!!), much thicker and no more degradable than the single-use bags they are meant to replace, and must be used hundreds of times before they break to demonstrate a gain over single-use plastic bags. They also don’t solve the problem of lining bins and picking up pet waste.

    I predict that this measure will be good in the short term (fewer single-use bags in trash bins) but bad in the long term (more environmental damage due to alternative bag production and disposal).

    And to the Joel Connellys of the world: I am not employed by or paid by the plastic-bag industry.

  2. This will so obviously be overturned by an initiative in one or two voting cycles. Why does Seattle government keep trying to pass bills that the populace obviously doesn’t want?

  3. Yup. They didn’t ban them last time, they created a fee to go towards making a new department of the government…to advertise and enforce the fines. Basically, a self-serving sin tax to create a new job for some flunkies that somebody in government know.

    Now, it’s going to the grocery stores.

    Hey, Seattle…when DC implemented fines, they used it to clean up a river. SOMETHING USEFUL. The paper bag fine will probably go down again because people don’t like useless fines.

  4. Feedback, you neglect to mention one simple fact about plastic, it never goes away, it merely “breaks down” into smaller and smaller bits. It actually works it’s way back up the food chain. While paper bags might take more energy to produce and get to the store per bag, paper bags hold about 3-4 times more and are easily recycled and composted. As consumers, it’s still best to buy less, buy bulk and bring our own cloth bags as often as possible.

  5. Cat piss and shit is compostable …. yes, and or, can go directly to the garden, spaded into the soil 6-8 inches …. urban farming get on this.

    Don’t be squeemish, the zuchinni and other veggies will love you …

  6. you shouldn’t use dog and cat waste on plants, you’ll burn the plants. It’s trash, and I frankly don’t know what the big deal is. When I had cats, I scooped into paper and tossed it in the dumpster. It never mattered if I used clumping clay litter or that pine stuff, there wasn’t any piss to soak through the paper bag.

  7. I don’t know if it will or not. I WANT the nickel fee to go down in flames. It’s nothing but a reward to the local businesses who have already built the price of the bags and then some into their prices. It will do NOTHING for social engineering or getting people to get reusable bags. But then again, I also want a decent quality canvas bag that’s not printed with some ass hat store’s logo that I can bleach and get clean.

  8. SF banned plastic bags, what, five years ago? It is such a shame how the ban completely ruined the city economically and left it covered in cat piss to boot. Free plastic bags are an American right! Long live plastic bags (literally! they last forever!).

  9. I have read that the recycling rate for plastic bags is only about 13%, so the ban will keep most of them out of our landfills and other places…a very good thing.

    But will those who now use plastic just switch to paper?..I doubt if 5 cents a bag will deter many. What is the current recycling rate for paper bags? If it’s similar to plastic, then many more paper bags will be going to our landfills. Yes, they break down, but they still take up alot of room.

  10. You just made the perfect case for more education …. educate people to recycle, re use and reduce consumption.

    BEST solution in lieu of more and more and more laws.

  11. Can you tell me why we pay the money to put an initive on the ballot and vote know to have the City Council to overturn. Maybe we should just be a communist country and let the city government make all the decisions. It will save us the money of the vote.

  12. I don’t think people who consistently use plastic or paper bags would respond to more “education.” It is naive to think that, in this day and age, it is not generally known that putting recyclables of any kind in the trash is bad for our environment, yet this continues to happen. Some people will continue to do what is easiest for themselves, damn the consequences!

    Laws sometimes are necessary to force citizens into doing the right thing.