City Council delays decision on Issaquah plastic bag ban
April 2, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 9:03 p.m. April 2, 2012
The decision to outlaw plastic bags at Issaquah businesses is on hold, City Council members decided Monday after a contentious discussion and appeals from environmentalists concerned about Puget Sound pollution and plastics manufacturers anxious about lost livelihoods.
The proposed plastic bag ban at local retailers is meant to limit garbage headed for the King County landfill and reduce marine pollution.
The measure stalled after speakers questioned the proposal’s scope and timing. The council opted in a 6-1 decision to postpone further discussions on the plastic bag ban to a still-unscheduled meeting.
The plastic bag ban proponent, Issaquah Highlands entrepreneur and Councilman Mark Mullet, said the legislation offers Issaquah a chance to reduce the estimated 10 million plastic bags the city sends to the King County landfill each year.
“I respect the fact that my fellow council members want to have more time,” Mullet said.
The council also alluded to the legislation opening another debate between the business and environmental camps in Issaquah.
“This need not be a civil war,” Councilman Joshua Schaer said.
(Schaer did not support the motion to send the legislation to another council meeting for discussion, citing the council committee structure as the proper channel for such a decision.)
Supporters said plastic bags pose problems at recycling facilities at use up space at the local landfill needed for nonrecyclable items. Supporters also cited marine pollution in Puget Sound and around the globe as reasons for the plastic bag ban.
Opponents suggested the problem is not the bags, but the subsequent litter. Opponents said a change in behavior to encourage people to recycle or reuse plastic bags is a more important need.
The lineup before the council included representatives from Environment Washington, a statewide advocacy group, and plastic bag manufacturers.
Despite the rift between the groups in Issaquah, the legislation attracted support from disparate groups in the region.
Holly Chisa, Washington lobbyist for the Northwest Grocery Association, supported the measure. Heather Trim, policy director for People for Puget Sound, asked members to support the plastic bag ban, too.
Councilman Paul Winterstein said the measure requires additional study before the council acts on the legislation.
Most merchants in the city did not hear about the legislation before the meeting, Councilwoman Eileen Barber said before the council decision. Barber spent the days before the discussion meetings employees and owners at local businesses.
“It bothers me that in this last week that we were still turning over stones,” Councilwoman Stacy Goodman said before the meeting.
Councilman Fred Butler lauded the speakers at the meeting, but said the council needs to hear from more community members before a decision is reached.
The discussion attracted a rare sight at Issaquah council meetings — television cameras from the Seattle affiliates.
Issaquah could yet join other cities in the Puget Sound region to outlaw plastic bags. The local proposal mimics the ordinance in Seattle and is similar to legislation in Bellingham, Edmonds and Mukilteo.
In addition to limiting most plastic bags, the legislation requires retail stores to collect 5 cents for each paper bag provided to customers. The fee is meant to help retailers offset the cost.
The proposed ordinance contains exemptions for bakery items, bulk foods, meat, produce, dry cleaning, newspapers, small hardware items and takeout foods.