Edmonds Beacon - Your Hometown News Source

By Leona Vaughn
WNPA Olympia News Bureau 

Proposed law adds a fee to plastic bags at check out

Bags already banned at most Edmonds businesses


January 23, 2020

Rep. Strom Peterson

It was in 2009 that the Edmonds City Council voted 5-1 to make all retail establishments within the city provide only reusable bags or recyclable paper bags. No plastic.

Now, in an attempt to reduce plastic pollution, a bill banning retailers from handing out free single-use plastic bags in the state of Washington is moving in the Legislature.

The bill, SB 5323, was passed by the Senate with a vote of 30-19 vote Jan. 15, and is now headed to the House for further consideration. If the bill becomes law, shoppers will have to either bring their own bags or pay an eight-cent fee for a reusable carryout plastic bag.

A similar attempt to ban plastic bags last year, with a 10-cent fee, did not advance.

"It's hard to believe that 10 years ago I was able to lead the effort for Edmonds to be the first city in Washington to get rid of single use plastic bags," said Rep. Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds).

"Now we're ready to make an even greater positive impact on our environment. I'm looking forward to getting this bill to the governor's desk."

Today, exempt in Edmonds are plastic bags for meats, vegetables, bulk food or prepared food gathered within a retail store, and plastic bags for prepared food from deli counters and restaurants. An exemption to this rule is for take-out prepared foods and plastic bags for newspapers.

There were three public comment opportunities on the proposed ordinance in Edmonds, and the response was overwhelmingly in favor of the ordinance. Local businesses and business groups in Edmonds were also widely consulted and provided input.

The ordinance became effective Aug. 27, 2010. Many Edmonds shoppers now use their own reusable bags when shopping.

Last week's bill in Olympia was a one-party proposal, made by the Democrats, and received the support of two Republicans voting yes. One Democrat voted no.

"Plastic pollution is a huge problem in our state," said Sen. Mona Das (D-Kent), the bill's primary sponsor.

This isn't just a statewide issue, it's a worldwide problem that is having a huge negative impact on our environment and wildlife, Das said.

Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), one of the bill's co-sponsors, refers to it as a "modest, but genuine step forward" in reducing the state's single-use plastic consumption, which he says is an environmentally harmful addiction we've developed and can no longer ignore.

"We are choking," Carlyle said.

With single-use plastic bags no longer an option at check out, consumers would instead be given a choice between paper bags and paying eight-cents each for reusable bags made from film plastic.

These new carryout bags would need to meet certain strength, durability, and recyclability standards. The bags must be able to hold 22 pounds over a 175-foot distance, survive at least 125 uses and be washable, according to the original Senate Bill Report.

The goal of the proposed law is not to get an extra 8 cents out of people, but to encourage them to practice more sustainable habits and remind consumers to bring their own bags, said Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), another co-sponsor of the bill.

"For me, it's about behavior change," Sen. Das said. "People need that extra incentive to change their behavior."

The 8-cent fee not only motivates shoppers to bring their own bags, but it also takes the burden off of retailers by compensating for the cost of the new, stronger carryout bags.

Shoppers who rely on food stamps, or other food or nutritional assistance programs, would not be charged the fee.

Kuderer takes it as a good sign that the bill passed in the Senate as quickly as it did, and many of the bill's co-sponsors are hopeful that it will make it through the House of Representatives and onto the floor this session.

– Edmonds Beacon Editor Brian Soergel contributed to this report.


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