Council President Richard Conlin
COUNCIL TO CONSIDER STYROFOAM BAN AND FEE ON DISPOSABLE BAGS
Conlin and others to hear public comments on July 8th at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers
SEATTLE – Council President Richard Conlin today received the legislative proposal that will ban certain uses of expanded polystyrene (EPS) and encourage Seattleites to use reusable shopping bags. Council President Conlin said, “This legislation encourages choices that will help marine mammals in the Puget Sound, reduce litter, and cut greenhouse gas emissions.”
One part of the package creates a compulsory fee of 20 cents for disposable shopping bags provided at convenience, drug, and grocery store cash registers, beginning on January 1, 2009. Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) estimates 360 million disposable bags are used in the city every year. The proposal focuses on these stores because they are the source of more than 70% of all disposable shopping bags distributed. The fee applies to both paper and plastic and is expected to reduce the use of disposable bags by more than 50%, or at least 184 million bags annually.
Councilmember Sally Clark said, “This proposal gives people options, and I’m very pleased that we plan to provide reusable bags to seniors and low-income people before this program would take effect.”
Seattle Public Utilities is developing an aggressive outreach plan to put free reusable bags in the hands of seniors and low income households. In order to make the change easier on businesses, retailers will keep 5-cents of every bag to cover administrative costs. Small businesses, those grossing less than $1 million annually, whose administrative costs are higher, will keep the entire 20-cent fee.
Most of the funds generated will be used to offset a portion of the needed solid waste rate increase. Part will go to support Seattle Public Utilities’ waste prevention and recycling programs.
Councilmember Tim Burgess said, “This is an excellent program that relies on market forces to achieve a highly desirable goal. This program advances our planet-saving efforts and demonstrates Seattle’s environmental leadership. We will be the first city in the country to use this market-driven strategy to nearly eliminate the use of plastic and paper shopping bags.”
By preventing the manufacture of this number of bags each year, Seattle will cut greenhouse gas production by nearly 112,000 tons over a 30-year period. This reduction in the use of plastic bags will also help marine ecosystems by eliminating some of the plastic that ends up in our oceans and the Puget Sound. A similar fee in Ireland achieved a 90 percent reduction in use from 325 to 23 bags per person per year.
Another part of the new proposal will ban expanded polystyrene food containers from restaurants and meat/seafood packaging from grocery stores, beginning January 1, 2009. Expanded polystyrene foam not only adds to the waste stream, but also presents a hazard for birds because it breaks up into indigestible pellets. There are better products that are readily available and serve the same purpose.
This latest initiative grew out of Council President Conlin’s work as chair of the Council’s Environment, Emergency Management, and Utilities Committee. In the fall of 2006, Conlin began his review of Seattle’s solid waste programs and facilities that resulted in the Council passing, in July 2007, a Zero-Waste strategy to improve recycling and waste reduction.
The Council’s Environment, Emergency Management, and Utilities Committee will hear a report and recommendations on the legislation Tuesday, June 24, at 2:00 p.m. in Council Chambers and will host a public comment meeting on Tuesday, July 8 at 7:00 pm, also in the Council Chambers. The public comment period will remain open until Friday, July 11.
For more information about the proposal or public comment opportunity, go to www.seattle.gov/council/conlin/