Officials consider plastic bag ban for Issaquah

February 14, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Officials intend to use Seattle ordinance as model

Canvas bags could turn into a more common sight in Issaquah checkout lanes soon.

The city is poised to join Bellingham, Edmonds, Mukilteo and Seattle to ban plastic bags at local retailers — to limit garbage headed for the King County landfill and reduce pollution in Puget Sound.

Though a decision on a plastic bag ban is months distant, the Council Utilities, Technology & Environment Committee plans to start collecting input from businesses owners and residents Feb. 16.

“To me, the beauty of it is, you get to your end objective, which is getting rid of plastic bags, and you’re not putting an undue, negative impact on the businesses in your community,” said Councilman Mark Mullet, a local merchant and the committee chairman.

If the committee decides to proceed after the Feb. 16 meeting, city staffers in the Office of Sustainability could prepare legislation for consideration from the council.

“The objective is to get some input and some feedback from folks — residents, businesses — about this idea,” city Resource Conservation Manager David Fujimoto said.

Issaquah officials intend to model the local legislation on the plastic bag bans in Bellingham and Seattle.

Get involved

Council Utilities, Technology & Environment Committee

  • Agenda: plastic bag ban discussion
  • 5 p.m. Feb. 16
  • Pickering Room, City Hall Northwest
  • 1775 12th Ave. N.W.

In Seattle, a broad plastic bag ban passed in December and due to start in July is not limited to grocery stores. The ordinance also applies to convenience stores, clothing sellers, department stores, farmers markets and home-improvement retailers. The ordinance exempts restaurants. The legislation also imposed a 5-cent fee for paper bags.

Bellingham leaders adopted a similar ordinance last July. Mukilteo officials agreed to ban plastic bags in December 2011. Edmonds led the effort to outlaw plastic bags in July 2009.

Meanwhile, a statewide plastic bag ban is under consideration in the Legislature.

Mullet — a Democrat in a state Senate race against Republican incumbent Cheryl Pflug — said inland and shoreline communities alike need to limit plastic bags if a statewide ban is to succeed.

“Issaquah would be the first landlocked community to do it, which I think would set a great example,” he said.

The decision to use the Bellingham and Seattle ordinances as templates for local legislation is deliberate, though officials could tailor the legislation to meet specific needs in Issaquah.

“There’s a lot to be said for not reinventing the wheel when there’s one that’s been invented,” Mullet added.

The earliest a proposed plastic bag ban could return to the Utilities, Technology & Environment Committee for discussion is next month. A decision from the council is not expected to occur soon.

In November 2009, council members outlawed Styrofoam containers at local eateries after officials spent months adjusting the legislation to address concerns from restaurateurs.

Leaders intend to incorporate lessons learned in the effort to mandate compostable food containers and ban Styrofoam containers at local eateries. Officials reached out to Issaquah Chamber of Commerce leaders months ago to discuss a possible plastic bag ban.

“Once we realized that Seattle had the votes to pass it — and they hadn’t even passed it yet — that’s when we brought it to the chamber’s attention,” Mullet said.

In Seattle, ban backers enjoyed support from elected officials and industry groups. The measure received critical support from the Northwest Grocery Association — a trade group representing Fred Meyer, QFC and Safeway in Washington.

“The biggest concern that they’ve had is that there is not a patchwork of different requirements throughout the state,” Fujimoto said. “Everybody could have their own kind of twists and turns. I don’t think that really benefits anybody.”

If Issaquah indeed enacts a plastic bag ban, Mullet said the city could serve as a model for other Eastside cities.

“I think if we are able to get it through, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bellevue and Redmond end up following suit later on in the year,” he said.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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2 Responses to “Officials consider plastic bag ban for Issaquah”

  1. Smoley on February 17th, 2012 5:31 pm

    Plastic bag ban? Really? REALLY?

    Does this city not have anything better to do with its time? How about this idea: Put some effort into cutting back the trees that hit the power lines around here so that we don’t lose electricity for days after a storm!

    (Speaking of downed trees, there’s still a downed tree hanging over the sidewalk at the end of E. Sunset Way near I-90 at the trail entrance to Tradition Plateau. How about cleaning that up, eh?)

    Those plastic bags that you hate sooo much are recyclable. So if you really wanted them to not end up in a landfill or floating down the street, why not pay people to bring them to a recycling center? Nah, you’d rather ban them outright and punish the people in this town who have been acting responsibly with their refuse.

    Won’t we all feel great about being the first on the east side to pass a bag ban so that we can use one hand and pat our own back and the other to thumb our nose at Redmond and Bellevue. Nice job, Issaquah. If this happens, I’ll be shopping elsewhere.

  2. Doug on February 18th, 2012 7:56 pm

    This is feel-good legislation and nothing more. I’ll bet that the items in many of those “horrible” plastic bags have more plastic in their packaging than there is in the bag itself. The impact to ban plastic bags is minimal to say the least.

    If the state wanted to do something about plastic in the landfills maybe they should look towards Oregon and a few other states that have a nickel deposit on plastic bottles to discourage them from being thrown into landfills and waterways. People are more likely to bring something back for recycle if they get a little financial reward.

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