Issaquah starts countdown to plastic bag ban

February 26, 2013

By Warren Kagarise

The citywide ban on most retail plastic bags starts March 1, and Issaquah leaders are reminding residents and retailers to prepare for the ordinance to go into effect.

The measure also sets a 5-cent fee for most paper carryout bags. Under the ordinance, retailers keep the fee to offset the cost to phase out plastic bags. Shoppers can see the expense itemized on receipts.

Though the ordinance requires most plastic bags to disappear from retailers in March, consumers should not expect to see the bags vanish altogether.

The legislation contains exemptions for plastic bags for bakery items, bulk foods, meat, produce, dry cleaning, newspapers, small hardware items and takeout foods.

Some businesses might also need time to exhaust existing plastic bag supplies. Businesses can also apply for temporary waivers from the plastic bag ban.

“So, one of the things I’m making sure to tell them is, ‘We don’t want you to throw away all your plastic bags that you have left over. You’re allowed to go through any existing stock,’” said Micah Bonkowski, a resource conservation coordinator in the city Office of Sustainability. “That would defeat the purpose, to just throw them all in the garbage.”

The plastic bag ban goes into effect in March for retailers of 7,500 square feet or more. The measure does not go into effect for smaller businesses until March 1, 2014.

The city plans to distribute reusable bags to about 600 low-income households and also to the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank to provide to clients.

The ordinance exempts food banks, state and federal financial assistance program recipients, and services for low-income earners from the 5-cent fee.

The city ordered 4,200 polypropylene bags in lime green, emblazoned with the city logo and the phrase “One less bag” on the side. Residents can pick up a complimentary bag at the CleanScapes store.

What to know

Shoppers can pick up a complimentary reusable bag while supplies last at the CleanScapes store, 317 N.W. Gilman Blvd.

Money for the bags came from $10,000 authorized by City Council members to implement the ordinance.

The penalty for defying the ordinance is a $250 fine, although officials plan to work alongside violators. The city adopted a similar approach in October 2010 as Issaquah banned polystyrene, or Styrofoam, restaurant takeout containers.

“The city’s attitude is similar to the polystyrene ban,” Bonkowski said. “We’re going to try and work with businesses as much as possible at first.”

The preparation effort also includes education and outreach to consumers. The city set up a website to offer more information about the plastic bag ordinance.

In June 2012, Issaquah joined a string of cities along Puget Sound to outlaw plastic bags at local retailers. Concerns about the environment led the council to decide 5-2 to eliminate most retail uses for plastic bags.

The plastic bag ban sponsor, then-Councilman Mark Mullet, presented the legislation as a way to reduce the estimated 10 million plastic bags the city sends to the King County landfill each year. (Mullet is now the state senator representing the 5th Legislative District.)

The plastic bag ban is similar to ordinances in Seattle, Bainbridge Island, Bellingham, Edmonds, Mukilteo and Port Townsend. Issaquah is the only Eastside city — and the only municipality inland from Puget Sound — to enact such legislation.

Bonkowski said residents and retailers heard about the Issaquah ordinance early, perhaps due to other cities implementing similar legislation in recent months.

“This one is following a little closer on the heels of Seattle doing the same thing,” he said.

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5 Responses to “Issaquah starts countdown to plastic bag ban”

  1. Not so Green on February 26th, 2013 9:15 pm

    I’m doing my grocery shopping in Sammamish now. There isn’t a special charge for Paper bags there.

  2. Smoley on February 27th, 2013 10:15 pm

    Hey Issaquah Press,

    Why didn’t you mention Senate Bill 5386, authored by Mark Mullet, and how that could affect the Issaquah city ordinance?

    Allow me to do the leg work for you:

    I guess Mullet didn’t get everything he wanted with the Issaquah ordinance, so now he’s going to require that it be changed via a state law.

  3. A Real Brain on March 6th, 2013 3:08 pm

    Has anyone tried to figure out the WHOLE effect of such an idiotic ban?

    The city website says 2 billion bags are used in Washington and only 5% are recycled. Let’s ponder that, where’s the other 95%?

    We don’t have 1,900,000,000 bags littering the highways. Are they just thrown in the trash, for the heck of it? Good God no.

    1. They don’t say where the 5% number comes from. It’s probably outdated. It probably is from a time before ubiquitous recycle bins.

    2. Some people are of such low income they can’t afford a special trash bag. Try putting something with the slightest amount of liquid in a paper bag. Didn’t think about that one, did ya Mullet? Do you care at all? What kind of Democrat doesn’t consider the poor?

    3. Some of us use them as trash bags in our cars. There really isn’t a viable alternative to this. Believe me, I’ve looked.

    4. I’ve seen them reused by nonprofits for community events.

    Why didn’t they try an education campaign instead? Some effort to get people to recycle more instead of pushing them to shop in Bellevue, Redmond or Sammamish?

    What about every other form of plastic aka the majority of the problem?

    Mullet is never receiving a dime from me after this. I’m avoiding Zeeks Pizza and Ben and Jerry’s as well. (He owns them.)

  4. A Real Brain on March 6th, 2013 3:22 pm

    “King County hasn’t had a public or private study on bacteria in reusable grocery bags.”

    But yeah, such a great idea there Mullet. Can we bury their bodies in your backyard? How about we toss them in your compost heap?

    “According to data released in January by Seattle Public Utilities, 21.1 percent of business owners surveyed said increased shoplifting because of the plastic bag ban was a problem.”

    Not really an issue for you personally, right Mullet?

    Heaven forbid it, but if this ban survives, I want to ban pizza boxes and ice cream cups.

  5. elfstar on March 8th, 2013 8:32 am

    With the economy just picking up, this is not a good way to keep things going. I too will be shopping outside Issaquah. Trader Joe’s warned in advance. They don’t want to charge the bag fee, but the are REQUIRED to by law. Not good for business. There are plenty of other ways to help the environment. This will also increase shoplifting.

    When visiting another city on vacation, I was asked if I wanted a bag. I said yes and was charged without being told. At another place I was not even asked and was charged for the bag. Since this is a city by city ordinance consumers must be warned prior to being charged.

    Put this to the voters, but the vote should not only include Issaquah residents since many others shop in the city. At least include unincorporated King County with Issaquah address in the vote.

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