Shoreline, WA, USA Bans Plastic Bags

Shoreline, WA, USA Bans Plastic Bags

Sets Fee on Paper Bags
Shoreline, WA, May 9, 2013 - The City Council of Shoreline, Washington has banned all retailers from providing plastic bags to customers. In addition, the Council set a five-cents fee per bag to be charged by retailers if a customer requires a paper bag.

The City Council adopted the carryout bag regulations on April 29th after many discussions and much debate. The regulations will take effect on February 1st, 2014 giving the City eight months for public outreach and citizen awareness campaigns.

I spoke with John Norris, an analyst with the City Manager's Office, about the carryout bag regulations. "The ban is based on the Seattle ordinance", said Mr. Norris. "We looked at both Seattle and the City of Edmonds in considering what model the ordinance should be based upon."

Shoreline is located nine miles north of Seattle and only five miles south of Edmonds. Both cities have banned plastic bags. In 2009, Edmonds was the first city in Washington to ban plastic bags. Seattle followed with a ban in 2011.

The City Council of Shoreline first began discussions about regulating plastic bags in April 2012. At a regular Council meeting, Council discussed the reasons why carryout bag regulations would align with the City's Environmental Sustainability Strategy, which was adopted in 2008.

A Staff Report noted several reasons that plastic bag regulations would align well with the Environmental Sustainability Strategy. The report stated, "For instance, the opening of the Waste Reduction and Resource Conservation focus area section in the Strategy states: The simplest and most cost-effective way to conserve resources – both water and material resources – is to simply not use them."

The report went on to state: "Thus, there seems to be broad policy direction from the Sustainability Strategy that limiting or regulating inefficient material resources is a goal of our community. Staff would argue that single use plastic bags fall into this category of resource."

Later in 2012, citizens and businesses were surveyed for their input on the matter. In Shoreline's Citizen Satisfaction Survey, the question was posed whether citizens would like to see plastic bag regulations adopted in Shoreline. 49% of the survey respondents said "yes". Of the 885 respondents, 432 said yes, 272 said no, and 181 were either neutral or said "don't know".

In the survey of businesses, owners were asked to rank, in order of preference, five models of plastic bag regulations. 66.7% of respondents (10 people) said "no ban or fee on plastic bags". 25% (3 people) chose as their first choice the model, "a ban on plastic carryout bags plus a mandatory fee on paper carryout bags".

The City Council resumed discussions about carryout bag regulations in February of this year. Staff reports and results of the surveys were presented to the Council. Staff recommended the Council employ a ban on plastic bags plus a mandatory fee on paper carryout bags.

The Council on April 29, 2013, after reviewing all staff reports and discussion among Council members over the course of 12 months, voted 5-1 to adopt the recommended ordinance.

The ordinance bans thin-film plastic bags under 2.25 mil thick from all retailers, not just food stores, in the city limits of Shoreline. Furthermore, the ordinance places a mandatory five-cents fee on any paper bag required by the customer. The ordinance also mandates that paper bags must contain a minimum of 40% recycled content if the bag is 1/8 barrel or larger.

It is interesting to note that the ordinance does not mention reusable bags. In the definitions section of the ordinance, there is no definition for reusable bags. This is the first ordinance that I've seen which doesn't promote reusable bags. Also, "Any plastic bag that is 2.25 mil thick or stronger will be allowed to be used", stated Mr. Norris.

The retailers keep all of the five-cents fee. According to Mr. Norris, the city will only receive the tax amount that is applied to the nickel sale by the retailer.

Copyright © 2013 Plastic Bag Ban Report. All Rights Reserved.

Cover photo: Cromwell Park, Shoreline, WA. Author: baojr at flickr.com. Licensed by Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)