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Seattle’s Plastic Bag Ban Success Contagious

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Courthouse of Thurston County, Washington. Credit: Jimmy Wayne at flickr.com

OLYMPIA, Washington, December 30, 2012 (ENS) – A new survey of consumers and business in Seattle and Bellingham, Washington shows widespread support of the ban on single-use plastic shopping bags adopted in 2012. Now the county that hosts the Washington State capital is considering the state’s first county-wide ban.

The survey was conducted by Environment Washington Research & Policy Center, a statewide citizen-based advocacy organization that has supported bag bans across the state.

“People in Washington realize that our actions have big impacts on the wildlife in Puget Sound,” said Robb Krehbiel, program associate with Environment Washington. “No one can forget the beached gray whale found in West Seattle with 20 plastic bags in its stomach. By bringing our own bags to the store, we can ensure this never happens again.”

The report detailing the survey results, “Cutting Down on Plastic: Bag Bans Prove Popular and Successful,” found that more than half of respondents in both Bellingham and Seattle said the bag ban has prompted them to bring their own bags to the store more often. Today, two-thirds of shoppers in these cities bring their bags most or all of the time.

The majority of shoppers surveyed agreed with the bag ban, saying it’s good for the environment.

The survey found that 76 percent of Seattle businesses and 85 percent of Bellingham businesses saw an increase in reusable bag usage after the bag ban.

The increase was greatest in grocery stores where over 95 percent of employees surveyed said they have seen an increase in people bringing their own bags.

Now Thurston County residents have begun urging their elected officials to enact a ban similar to those in Seattle and Bellingham.

Dominated by Washington’s capital city, Olympia, Thurston County is located at the southern end of Puget Sound 60 miles south of Seattle.

Staffers with the Thurston County Solid Waste Program have spent the past year working with the community and researching what has been successful in reducing plastic bags across the United States.

Based on this research, the Thurston County Solid Waste Advisory Committee recommended that Thurston County and the cities within the county adopt a ban on plastic bags with a fee on paper bags.

“It has been shown over and over that education and increased bag recycling opportunities do not make a significant impact,” said Terri Thomas, Thurston County Solid Waste Reduction Coordinator. “If jurisdictions truly want to reduce the use, bans are about the only way that is going to happen.”

As Thurston County prepares for a bag ban, some businesses have already started eliminating plastic bags from their stores.

Cheryl Selby, owner of the women’s clothing store Vivala in Olympia, said, “At Vivala we strive to be part of the green economy by incorporating sustainable principles into every business decision.”

“That’s why at Vivala we only offer shopping bags made from high content post-consumer waste paper. We’ve gone even further and now ask every customer if they want a bag or would rather use their own,” said Selby. “It’s encouraging to see more and more customers bring their own reusable shopping bags into our store! I think Thurston County is ready to adapt to a
bag ban.”

In the city of Tumwater just south of Olympia, the Tumwater City Council unanimously supported a Thurston County plastic bag ban at its most recent meeting, the first city in the county to do so.

“The Tumwater City Council voiced strong support for a plastic bag ban at a recent work session,” said Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet. “We look forward to collaborating with the Thurston County Health Department, our neighboring jurisdictions, and various interest groups to develop an ordinance that we can all live with.”

Other Thurston County cities will consider the measure in the coming weeks.

Currently seven cities in Washington have banned plastic bags. Other cities, such as Shoreline and Anacortes, are currently discussing bans.

“2012 was a big year for us,” said Krehbiel of Environment Washington, “and we want 2013 to be just as big. Right now, other cities across the state are actively pursuing bag bans, and the state is gearing up to push a statewide ban on plastic bags. There’s still a lot more to be done.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.