Residents settle in to bag ban

April 23, 2013

By Peter Clark

After almost two months of the Issaquah bag ban, which bars large-scale retailers from distributing plastic shopping bags to customers, the reception has been generally positive.

The ban went into effect March 1 for retail stores larger than 10,000 square feet.

Prior to the implementation, the city’s Department of Sustainability launched an extensive education campaign for citizens and retailers. Resource Conservation Coordinator Micah Bonkowski was pleased to find that most of the affected stores were prepared for the law.

Seattle passed a similar ordinance a year ago, and most of the big retailers in Issaquah also have locations in the larger city. Because of that, Bonkowski said they were familiar with the protocol and management of the decision.

“Chances are if you have a store that big, you have a store in Seattle,” he said. “The wording of the ordinance is consistent with every other city’s, and because of that, those retailers had no trouble.”

Though there were initial hurdles immediately after the bill passed, the change did not create a very large stir with most.

“It’s been really up and down,” Nic Scheiner, manager at the Meadows QFC, said. “Some are literally outraged, saying, ‘I’ve never voted for it,’ but it’s definitely just a matter of time before they are used to it.”

“Most people didn’t know,” Front Street Market Store Manager Tracye Randall said. “They might mumble under their breath, but most are OK with it.”

Most all of the retailers affected by the bag ban were large chains, such as Safeway and Target. Front Street Market was the sole locally-owned operation that had to stop using plastic bags, according to Bonkowski. They have taken a different approach by still offering plastic bags to customers to buy. Store Manager Lori Surridge understood the reasoning for the ban but believes the city could have approached it differently.

“We still do our plastic bags that everyone begged us not to get rid of,” she said. To align with the ordinance, which stipulated the thickness of regulated bags, they increased the weight of the bags they supplied. Selling five for $1, Surridge said those bags are already recycled.

For her, the timing, consideration and implementation were all problematic.

“I do think it should be done, but the timing was not right,” she said. “With the economy the way it is, it was just one more thing to put on peoples’ plates. The city could have focused on something a little more important.”

She also voiced disappointment with the lack of education she felt the city provided, saying that the citywide push that was promised did not occur until after the ordinance was in effect.

Though “picking your battles” was often heard when discussing the ban, there is one group that has set its sights on this one.

Bonkowski said there was a “vocal minority” that continued to speak out against the city’s action. One of the most prominent of those rejecting the ban is the Save Our Choice group, a regional organization that has previously fought against a like ordinance in Seattle and turned its attention to Issaquah. The crux of its argument, according to the group’s website, is that it does not want what it feels are personal liberties to be decided by a “nanny state.” It collected 2,700 signatures last summer to bring the issue to a referendum, but the city said that a portion of those collected were too late for inclusion on the November ballot.

Save Our Choice launched another recall effort March 1 to collect enough signatures in hopes of recalling the decision in this year’s election. Save Our Choice representatives did not respond to attempts to contact them.

For Bonkowski, the effort is all about changing consumer perception, and he believes that it is going well.

“The biggest objective is just to get people to remember their reusable bags,” he said. “The larger goal is to help the long-term cultural shift.”

With a staggered approach built into the ban, the ordinance will take effect for smaller retailers in the area March 1, 2014.

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7 Responses to “Residents settle in to bag ban”

  1. D Cooke on April 24th, 2013 4:34 am

    The first time I was denied bags I was mildly perturbed. Now I shop in Renton. Problem solved.

  2. dede on April 24th, 2013 4:22 pm

    I concur 1005 ‘The city could have focused on something a little more important.”
    I live in Sammamish and take i-90 and 405 to work. After having to purchase my own bag for groceries the first time I no longer stop and shop in Issaquah (except Costco) I have the choice to shop Bellevue, Redmond, and Sammamish and i will give them my business. They provide bags with a smile not a fee.
    I also do not want to contaminate fresh food and groceries that I feed my children from a reused bags that grows germs, bacteria etc including e-coli.
    Note I do recycle and the bags get reused for many purposes

  3. Smoley on April 24th, 2013 10:21 pm

    I also quit shopping in Issaquah this year once the bag ban went into effect at Safeway and QFC. I’m now shopping at the Safeway in Sammamish and the QFC in Klahanie and getting plenty of plastic bags free of charge.

    As a bonus I’ve also discovered some new restaurants and a pub near those stores that I’m now spending my dining-out dollars at instead of my usual spots in Issaquah.

    Yessir, this Issaquah resident is settling in with that bag ban just fine…

  4. Rob on April 25th, 2013 2:03 pm

    I think the ban is brilliant – seeing those bags wafting on the breeze and settling into treetops and ponds is disgusting. It isn’t THAT much trouble to bring a bag, or carry your stuff (small purchases), or live with a paper bag when you forget. Lots of folks around the world find a way to get by without those plastic bags. We can, too.

  5. David on April 28th, 2013 6:30 pm

    I found out about the bag ban while going through the self check out at Home Depot. When I was informed of the policy I cancelled my transaction and informed the clerk he could put my items back on the shelf. I was going to the Bellevue store. I continue to shop at QFC and Home Depot, just not the Issaquah locations. My purpose is to deny the city of Issaquah the sales tax revenue not the stores of the business. Sadly however when this policy changes and effects smaller firms I will be forced to change my shopping habits at Gemini Seafood and Fischer Meats – two stores I continue to currently shop at as the bag policy has not yet come to them. My goal is simply to vote with my cash and deny Issaquah the sales tax revenue I will be now spending in other communities.

  6. Alan McSwain on April 30th, 2013 5:11 pm

    I too have stopped shopping in the City of Issaquah.

    Rob… You’re clearly being out voted here. How brilliant is that?

  7. lessbans on May 5th, 2013 10:58 am

    The ban sucks and is useless. Signing the petition to lift the ban

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