Seattle’s City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Dec. 19 to restrict the distribution of plastic bags at grocery, retail and convenience stores, while placing a 5-cent fee on paper shopping bags, the Seattle Times reports.
The law, which takes effect July 1, was supported not only by environmentalists wanting to protect Puget Sound marine life, but also by the Northwest Grocery Association, which represents Safeway, Fred Meyer, QFC and Albertsons.
Seattle residents use approximately 292 million plastic shopping bags annually and recycle only 13 percent, according to the Seattle Public Utilities which manages waste disposal and recycling for the city.
In 2008, the city council wanted to enact a 20-cent fee on both plastic and paper shopping bags, but the plastics industry led a campaign to place the bill on the 2009 primary ballot, and voters rejected the measure, the New York Times reports.
Makers of plastic bags and industry organizations such as the American Chemistry Council criticize plastic bag bans for limiting consumer choice and harming the growth of plastic bag recycling programs. They also say that manufacturing and transporting plastic bags is more environmentally friendly than producing paper bags.
Seattle is now the fourth city in the state of Washington to ban plastic bags, joining Edmonds, Bellingham and Mukilteo, which approved an ordinance restricting plastic bags and charging for paper bags last week, the Seattle Times says.
Meanwhile, down in the Southwest, the city council in Bisbee, Ariz., voted Dec. 13 to pass a voluntary reduction of plastic and paper bags at select stores for a six-month trial period, the Arizona Range News reports. After six months, the city can choose to extend the voluntary ordinance or, if it is deemed ineffective, can implement a mandatory ordinance.
According to the newspaper, this is the first law in Arizona to address single-use shopping bags.