Small businesses wrap up plastic bag use

May 27, 2014

By Peter Clark

The city’s ban on plastic bags kicks in July 1 for small businesses.

The ban — passed by the Issaquah City Council in 2012 — went into effect for businesses over 7,500 square feet on March 1 the following year. The council staggered the roll-out of the prohibition, giving other businesses another year before they were expected to comply.

The ban will prohibit stores from providing customers with single-use plastic bags and require a minimum 5-cent charge for paper bags.

With the nearing deadline, the city is beginning to initiate outreach.

“We’re just getting ready for a big push,” city Resource Conservation Coordinator Micah Bonkowski said.

He said city officials wanted to focus on two specific categories in their education: affected businesses and public awareness.

He said the city sent out notification letters in April to 350 small businesses and is preparing another batch of flyers.

“I think the public awareness is really high because of the election,” he said. “We’re going to do another big reusable bag giveaway as well, probably a couple more farmers markets, Highlands Days, ArtWalks and Concerts on the Green.”

The short life of the plastic bag ban has already had a tumultuous life. It passed the City Council with a 6-1 vote, but the many public input meetings were not enough for the ordinance’s opponents. Volunteer group Save Our Choice led a repeal campaign, which ultimately proved successful and brought the ban to a vote of the people in February. There, voters decided 52 percent to 47 percent to keep the ban.

Bonkowski said he was not yet certain which small businesses would feel the most effect from eliminating the option of plastic bags for customers.

Employees and managers of small businesses had mixed reactions to the impending change.

“We’ve always just carried paper and plastic,” Nathan Turillo, manager at Gemini Fish Market in the Issaquah Meadows Shopping Center. “And we’ve prepared for it by offering paper.”

Still, he said about two out of five customers will complain about the limiting choice.

“It’s a pain,” Donna Brosseau, an employee at Revolution Gallery and Gifts in Gilman Village said, adding that she hasn’t heard anything from the city about how the store should proceed.

“I don’t think people have thought about the small businesses until they pop in here,” she said.

Brenda DeVore, store manager at CleanScapes Recology, also in Gilman Village, said their customers will be ready for it.

“People who come in here will not be affected by it,” she said. “They all support the bag ban.”

She said even shoppers who come in from out of town respond positively to the ordinance.

“They think it’s actually kind of cool,” she said.

Tomila Schmidt, an employee at Lucky Home in Gilman Village, had logistical concerns for customers. The home decor shop sells a number of textiles and delicate items.

“It’s going to be hard to make sure pillows and things like that don’t get wet when it’s raining outside,” she said.

She said the store is currently making its way through its inventory of plastic bags and she remains unsure about the future.

“I have no idea what we’re going to do,” Schmidt said. “We use a lot of plastic.”

Learn more about the ban here.

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2 Responses to “Small businesses wrap up plastic bag use”

  1. David Beckenbaugh on May 30th, 2014 2:49 am

    One thing is for certain, a lot more people will shop outside of Issaquah, as I am already doing.

  2. Kim Hilliker on June 2nd, 2014 1:16 pm

    Bag Ban: Would it ever work to set up an exchange program for the cloth bags? I know I end up with a lot at home or when I remember then I am carrying 5 with me. Just set up a box or some type of hanger system and I will borrow and then return the bags when I come back. Do you think this might ever work? Kim

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