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Everett plastic bag ban would have delayed timeline

EVERETT — The city wants to go big on its reusable bag campaign, assuming that a plastic bag ban becomes city law.
The City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to approve the plastic bag ban at its Dec. 5 meeting. It could make Everett the state’s 24th city to have one.
Next October is the soonest the ban would come in force under a city timeline.
If approved, the city is readying a broad informational campaign during 2019 for stores and the public to have plenty of lead time for the change.
Under the ordinance, shoppers could purchase paper or reusable plastic bags for a nominal fee if they do not bring their own.
People who use SNAP food stamp benefits and similar programs would not have to pay the fee. Food banks also are exempt.
The proposed fee stood at five cents. At a council committee meeting last week, committee members debated whether the fee should be 10 cents, 5 cents or none at all, landing on a 5 cent fee like initially proposed.
The committee members agreed to include banning the plastic take-out bags handed out by restaurants. Their thinking is the ban is to reduce plastics overall.
The committee of Councilmen Paul Roberts and Scott Bader and stand-in Councilwoman Judy Tuohy also discussed whether the bag ban on flimsy grocery store bags should expand to include the heavier plastic bags that department stores give to customers.
On the fee, Roberts said he is comfortable with a 10 cent fee. Bader had concerns on why store paper bags would receive a fee.
Stores would keep the charge; the city would mandate every store charge a fee evenly to make sure larger stores do not use a “no fee” market strategy for a competitive edge against small businesses that have tighter budgets.
Not every city has a fee. Mukilteo, for example, makes the fee discretionary for the store, according to city attorney Flora Diaz. Edmonds and the Quil Ceda shopping center are among four places that impose no fee.
None of the council members spoke out against the idea when the council first discussed a ban at its Oct. 17 meeting. Many, though, did not want to not rush the law into place.
The city’s campaign could ramp up in January.
The plan includes newspaper advertisements, social media campaigns, a dedicated webpage, pamphlets in utility bills, sending postcards to apartment and townhome renters who may not get city utility bills, informational tables at local events such as Sorticulture, free reusable bags and stickers, posters, and a student art contest.
The campaign budget will be $36,000 to do all this, according to last week’s proposal. The 10,000-bag giveaway and reminder stickers account for $12,000 of the campaign’s cost.
The city’s utility fund is paying for the campaign. “The funds are there. There is no financial impact to our residents” for the campaign, city public works information officer Greg Moore said. The utilities department already conducts outreach, and the $36,000 would be budgeted from the solid waste division.
The student art contest would create posters the city can use, said Erika Frost who works in city public works for public education.
The public meetings could begin in May, under a timeline provided last week.
Local environmental group 350 Everett worked to get the ban formally before council. The city last flirted with a bag ban in 2012 but it didn’t come to a formal vote.
Political winds against plastic have seen more than 20 other places implement bag bans in Washington state. Most recently, Lake Forest Park implemented a bag ban Sept. 23.
The Snohomish City Council will hear about a bag ban at its Dec. 4 meeting.



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