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.
Council Utilities, Technology & Environment Committee
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.