BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Washington, April 16, 2012 (ENS) - The City of Bainbridge Island has become the fifth jurisdiction in Washington state to ban single-use, carry-out plastic bags.
A 35-minute ferry ride west of Seattle, Bainbridge Island is surrounded by scenic beaches and views of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains to the west and towering Mount Rainier to the east.
On Wednesday, the Bainbridge Island City Council unanimously approved an ordinance banning the thin-film bags, which will take effect on November 1, 2012.
As the issue came before the lawmakers, the Council chamber was filled with residents advocating support for the ban. Bainbridge High School students were among those lobbying and gathering signatures in support of the plastic bag ban.
Only one resident spoke in opposition, urging that a public vote be held on the ban.
"It's an expression of our community values," said Councilwoman Kirsten Hytopoulos, who wrote the law.
An environmental ethic is a strong on Bainbridge Island, where the environmental education center Islandwood offers programs for all ages, and the Bainbridge Graduate Institute offers advanced degrees that integrate environmentally and socially responsible innovations with traditional business education.
A 2008 survey of community values among the rural resort island's 23,400 residents showed a strong commitment to "preserving the sense of community and green spaces - agricultural land, forests, parks and trails."
Plastic bags, the Bainbridge Island ordinance states, "are made of nonrenewable resources and plastic never biodegrades and only breaks down into smaller and smaller particles which seep into soils or are carried into rivers and lakes, Puget Sound and the world's oceans, posing a threat to animal life and the natural food chain."
The ban does not apply to plastic bags used by customers inside stores to package foods or flowers, nor does it apply to newspaper bags, door-hanger bags, dry cleaning bags or bags intended for use as garbage, pet waste or yard waste bags.
The ordinance also places a five-cent fee on paper bags given to customers at checkout counters.
The five-cent charge for paper bags is intended to "discourage the use of single-use, throw-away items of all types which can be accomplished through price signals," the ordinance states.
The five-cent charge will not be levied on food-stamp customers or people receiving food assistance from Washington State.
Councilman Bob Scales said, "There's no question plastic bags are convenient. There's also no question they're bad for the environment. People will adapt, and it's the right thing to do."
At the start of Washington's 2012 Legislative session several bills circulated that would have banned retail plastic bags statewide, but none gained much traction in Olympia.
In an editorial, "The Kitsap Sun" newspaper, which covers Bainbridge Island, said that's a good thing. "...a statewide ban would be overreach," wrote the editorial board, opining that, "introducing this type of behavioral change to consumers is best done locally as representatives can listen to constituents."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.
Cover Photo: Aerial view of Bainbridge Island (bottom center/left) and Agate Passage (center), facing north north west. Beyond Bainbridge Island is Port Orchard Bay (left center) and the Olympic Peninsula (top). Taken by Dcoetzee from a commercial airliner window. Courtesy: Wikipedia