Mike McGinn, Mayor
6/29/2012 9:00:00 AM
Dick Lilly, (206) 615-0706, firstname.lastname@example.org
SPU Customer Service (206) 684-3000
Seattle plastic shopping bag ban just two days away— starts Sunday July 1
Beginning Sunday some stores plan to provide free reusable bags to early shoppers
SEATTLE — Single-use plastic carryout bags will become a thing of the past on Sunday, July 1, but Seattle shoppers can quickly make the transition to reusable bags thanks to several local stores that will be giving away free reusable bags to shoppers beginning Sunday.
Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is partnering with several Seattle retailers, including all 16 Safeway stores, to give away more than 32,000 free reusable bags to shoppers — half from Safeway, half from SPU — while supplies last. Bags will be given to shoppers first-come, first-served beginning Sunday, the first day of the plastic bag ban.
“We’re already seeing lots of shoppers using reusable bags and are pleased to see support for this effort from so many Seattle retailers,” said City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who spearheaded the plastic grocery bag ban legislation. “The switch from plastic to reusable bags means that 16 fewer shipping containers — or 8 railroad cars — of garbage will be shipped to the landfill every year.”
Other stores partnering with SPU to give free bags to customers include Hing Dong Market in the Chinatown International District, Kress IGA Downtown and the Crown Hill and Aurora Grocery Outlets. Free bags will not be available until Sunday.
Leading up to the July 1 ban, SPU mailed 10,000 notices to retailers and made nearly 500 in-person and phone contacts with Seattle stores to help them prepare for the ban on lightweight, single-use plastic carryout bags. SPU has also prepared flyers in 15 languages, including English, with information about the bag ban. They are available along with other information about the plastic bag ban.
The bag ban ordinance, which was unanimously approved by the Seattle City Council in December 2011, prohibits all Seattle retail stores from providing customers with single-use plastic carryout shopping bags, including those advertised as compostable, biodegradable, photodegradable or similar. Key elements of the ordinance include:
- Single-use plastic merchandise carryout bags are banned. This includes plastic-like bags claimed to be compostable, biodegradable, photodegradable or similar.
- Customers must be charged 5 cents per large paper bag. (Typically equivalent to large grocery bags — 882 cubic inches — with flat bottoms greater than 60 square inches.)
- Large paper bags requiring the 5-cent charge must be a minimum of 40 percent post-consumer recycled fiber and the fiber content must be marked on the outside.
- The 5-cent bag sale is taxable and must be shown on sales receipts. Retailers retain the revenue. Smaller bags may be provided with or without charge at the store’s discretion.
- Thick plastic bags — 2.25 mil or greater — are deemed reusable and may be provided with or without charge at the store’s discretion.
The goal of Seattle’s ordinance is to reduce waste — particularly, plastic litter. Plastic never disappears from the environment; it can harm animals and affect the food chain, especially in waterways and oceans.
The Seattle bag ban follows similar ordinances in neighboring Edmonds (in effect since 2010) and Bellingham (approved early in 2011) where the ban on single-use plastic bags takes effect August 1. Bainbridge Island and Mukilteo have followed suit with bans effective in November 2012 and January 2013, respectively.
Plastic bag bans have also been approved by city councils in a dozen California cities, including Los Angeles last month, and Portland, Ore., a year ago.
“From our conversations with local retailers, and from what we have seen in other Washington cities that have adopted bans on throwaway plastic carryout bags, we are expecting a smooth transition when the new law takes effect here on July 1,” said SPU program manager Dick Lilly.
“Most major stores, particularly grocery and drug stores where about 70 percent of plastic bags originate, are already selling moderately-priced reusable bags to help their customers,” Lilly added.
Shoppers can keep reusable carryout bags in their cars, backpacks or purses ready when they need them, Lilly advised. Having a reusable bag handy means buyers won’t need to pay the 5-cent fee required to get large recyclable paper bags to carry groceries or other large purchases.
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In addition to providing a reliable water supply to more than 1.3 million customers in the Seattle metropolitan area, SPU provides essential sewer, drainage, solid waste and engineering services that safeguard public health, maintain the City's infrastructure and protect, conserve and enhance the region's environmental resources.