Thurston County, WA Sets Hearing on Plastic Bag Ban

Thurston County, WA Sets Hearing on Plastic Bag Ban

Thurston County, WA, Aug. 20, 2013 (PBBR) - Thurston County, Washington is home to the Washington State Capital in Olympia, Washington. The County's Solid Waste Department has spearheaded an effort to consider banning plastic bags in the unincorporated areas of the county. Each jurisdiction would have to decide if it wants to adopt the umbrella ordinance.

Currently, two public hearings are schedule to allow input from the county's citizens: one in the city of Tumwater and one in the county's headquarters in Olympia. If the ordinance is adopted, Thurston County would join several other Washington cities who have passed plastic bag bans.

Here is a press release from Thurston County:

PUBLIC HEARING ON PLASTIC BAG LEGISLATION SET FOR SEPT. 24

WHAT: Board of County Commissioners Public Hearing on Proposed Plastic Bag Ordinance

WHEN: Tuesday, September 24 at 5:30 p.m.

WHERE: Room 280, Building One of County Courthouse at 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW in Olympia

The Thurston County Board of Commissioners today scheduled a public hearing for new legislation that would ban the use of plastic carryout bags in unincorporated Thurston County with some exceptions, and would place a fee on paper bags. The public hearing will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 24 in Building One of the county courthouse complex.

The proposed ordinance comes on the heels of an announcement by Thurston County's major waste and recycling collection provider, LeMay Incorporated, that they will discontinue collecting plastic carryout bags and other plastic film on October 1.

"This is not a decision commissioners take lightly, and public input on this proposed ordinance banning plastic bags is a critical part of our decision-making process," said Thurston County Commissioner Cathy Wolfe, who is the commission's representative on the county's Solid Waste Advisory Committee. "That said, the end of plastic bag recycling later this fall means that we need to act, and the development of this ordinance is quite timely."

The proposed ordinance being considered by the Thurston County Board of Commissioners eliminates plastic carryout bags, and places a fee on paper bags in unincorporated Thurston County. Certain plastic bags are exempt, and residents using food assistance programs do not pay the fee for paper bags. If adopted, the ban on plastic bags in unincorporated Thurston County would begin on July 1, 2014, which would allow county staff about six months to inform and educate retailers and the public about the changes.

The Thurston County Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC) and staff from the county's Solid Waste Division have been working on the issue of reducing the use of single use carryout bags since November 2011. County staff members visited each city and town council early in the process, and again after a nine-month community discussion to seek recommendations on how to reduce the number of plastic bags in Thurston County's waste stream from the 90 million bags we currently use on average each year. The SWAC suggested drafting a bag ban ordinance in their November 2012 report titled "Reducing Our Use: Plastic Shopping Bags," which is available at www.ThurstonSolidWaste.org/plastics.

The most recent community input on the issue was the formation of a 15-member stakeholders committee to draft a model ordinance in June. The group drafted a model ordinance similar to those in seven cities in Washington state that currently ban plastic bags, and the county's proposed ordinance is based on the committee's model ordinance language.

Leaders from five of Thurston County's cities have expressed support for a plastic bag ban, and the model ordinance language developed by the stakeholders committee has been submitted to all of the incorporated cities and towns in Thurston County. "Based on the public input we got, one of our goals is to create equal footing for all retailers and a seamless shopping experience for the residents throughout all of Thurston County," said Terri Thomas, Education and Outreach Specialist with the county's Solid Waste Division. "But for that to happen, each of the cities would need to hold their own public hearing and pass their own legislation. We hope the model ordinance language can be used as a kind of template, and that the proposed ordinance before the commissioners now encourages other jurisdictions on the issue. It will take all of the cities and the county working together to create a simpler, more consistent set of rules on plastic bags."

The model ordinance language, information on the project, and the committee's report titled "Reducing Our Use: Plastic Shopping Bags," is available at www.ThurstonSolidWaste.org/plastics. The community can sign up for email updates on the project or check for upcoming public hearing dates on the same webpage. For more information, contact Terri Thomas at ThomasTe@co.thurston.wa.us or at (360) 867-2279.

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Cover photo: Capitol Lake, Olympia, WA, Aug '05. Credit: Sundodger.  Released into the public domain by the copyright holder.