YES — It’s Time to Ban Plastic Bags



I must confess. In 2009, at the Stranger/WA Bus Candidate Survivor event, I stood in a corner almost by myself against the then- proposed plastic bag fee.

Credit: National Geographic

Though as a sailor I had seen first-hand the debris in our oceans and was aware of adverse affects plastic bags have on the environment, I just didn’t feel that the 2009 legislation was the right approach.

The legislation was complicated, required grocers to return money to the City, and more importantly it was regressive, taxing people up to twenty-cents for the use of plastic and/or paper bags. Few exceptions. I was concerned about unintended consequences it could have. Further, I was not convinced that it would bring about the cultural shift we hoped to achieve.

Sally showcases her reusable bag collection.

The proposed bag fee did not pass, but it did result in success. It raised awareness of the issue, and we started to see the beginning of a shift in our habits.
Have you noticed that more and more frequently we REMEMBER to bring our bags from the car to the grocery store? Haven’t you seen people in line at the grocery store apologizing to the clerk when they forget their bags?

Now, reusable bags are the “in thing.” Much better than the ubiquitous T-shirts that cram our drawers, reusable bags are easy to carry and are inexpensive, very often given as gifts or swag. Just about every retail store and organization hands out bags with their logos stamped on them. Great advertising, good reminders, and useful! I frequently give my extra bags to food banks and pepper my office staff with them.

 The current proposed legislation is not only simpler than that in 2009, it also comes at a time when we are likely inclined to change our habits.

Here’s why I’m supporting the ban on plastic bags:

  • It encourages the use of reusable bags.
  • The law exempts certain plastic bags such as those we get in the fruit/vegetable area or meat bags.
  • The law allows people to choose to pay a retailer five-cent pass for a paper bag. (Remember: paper bags clutter our landfills too.)
  • The nickel serves as a reminder to consumers to bring reusable bags. (By the way, this is a screaming deal. In the islands where I sailed, if you forgot your bags from the boat, you paid the equivalent of $5 US dollars for a bag. I only forgot once.)
  • The law has a progressive exemption for people who qualify for financial assistance.
  • This is not a tax – retailers keep the nickel to help recover costs of switching to paper bags.
  • It will reduce the numbers of plastic bags in our oceans and in our landfills.

I am proud that Seattle will soon join Bellingham and Edmonds in Washington, Portland, San Francisco on the West Coast, as well as more than 20 nations worldwide in our efforts to curb the impact of single-use plastic bags on the environment.

CM Burgess lends a hand.