Tumwater Plastic Bag Ordinance

Tumwater, WA, September 17, 2013 (PBBR) - The City Council of Tumwater voted tonight to approve a plastic bag ordinance banning the use of plastic bags by all retailers at checkout.  The ordinance is a model of the ordinance drafted by Thurston County where Tumwater is located.

Terri Thomas, Education and Outreach Specialist with Thurston County Solid Waste Division explained the plastic bag ordinance to the Council.  "Based on the national average, Thurston County is using about 90 million plastic bags each year" stated Ms. Thomas.

Ms. Thomas continued, "This ordinance eliminates all plastic carry-out bags and places a fee on recyclable paper bags for all retailers".  There will not be a charge if a patron brings their own reusable bag.

Thomas stated that the County does not accept plastic bags for recycling, yet the current recycling facility incurs about a $1000 per day to remove the plastics that clog their machines.  She explained the costs incurred to clean up plastic bags by county crews and the problems plastic causes storm drains.  "So the free bags that you get at the store definitely have a price", stated Ms. Thomas.

Holly Chisa of the Northwest Grocery Association spoke in favor of the ordinance.  She explained the reason for certain language contained in the ordinance.  In an agreement with the federal government concerning federal aid recipients, the language in the ordinance was approved by the federal government and could not be changed.  Ms. Chisa explained why the plastic bag ban must be for all retailers, not just grocery stores.  She stated that all retailers currently use plastic bags and many of those stores give out several times more plastic bags than many grocery stores.

Councilmember Oliva asked several questions of Ms. Chisa and Councilmember Joan Cathey commented that she was surprised when she learned how quickly citizens in other jurisdictions adapted to the plastic bag ban.  Councilmember Ed Hildreth questioned Ms. Chisa if she had data as to how much shoplifting increased when a city banned bags and customers brought their own bags.  He was referring to reports that shoplifting tended to increase when more people started using reusable bags.

Several Councilmembers were concerned that other cities in Thurston County would not pass a ban and Tumwater would lose revenue by citizens going to nearby towns to shop. In reference to that, an amendment to end Tumwater's ban if no one else passed a ban was voted down.

After much discussion among Council Members, the ordinance was passed by the Tumwater City Council and will go into effect July 1, 2014. For more about Thurston County's plastic bag ban, see Thurston County, WA Passes Plastic Bag Ban.