Snohomish to create plastic bag ban
SNOHOMISH — Snohomish is on track to join about two dozen Washington jurisdictions in banning plastic bags.
The City Council last week unanimously directed an ordinance be written to ban disposable grocery store bags, which the council would take to a vote at a later date.
They did so with the understanding that the bans allow several months for businesses to transition to paper and other bags. The ordinances are also usually not enforced, said presenter Heather Trim of Zero Waste Washington. Rather, the agency has found most businesses comply voluntarily and governments check on businesses only if a complaint is called in.
Trim said having all stores charge a fixed 5 or 10 cent fee on paper bags helped ensure mom and pop shops were not unfairly impacted by the cost of buying more expensive bags.
Most ordinances have three common traits; T-shirt style bags– the type used in grocery stores– are banned; retailers charge a 5 or 10-cent fee for paper bags; and there are exemptions for families receiving food stamps.
A statewide ban is set to be entered in the state Legislature, but Trim estimates a state ban could take one to three years to pass and a year after that to be implemented. She encouraged the council to act independently to reduce pollution sooner.
Last week’s discussion drew a crowd of about 75 people.
Colby VerHoeven of the Snohomish Youth Council said a survey of high school students had 109 responses, 85 in support of a ban and 24 opposed. High school students received extra credit for attending the meeting.
Youth shouldn’t have to fear the state of the environment or that greed will come before environmental protection, said Gracie Ed–wards, a junior at Glacier Peak High School. “You will be letting us down” if you don’t pass a ban, she said.
We’re on the verge and cusp of environmental disaster,” said Ann Masterson.
Marilene Richardson said she was a homeowner and business owner whose parents had always taught her to make good decisions, and a ban was the decision that would allow her to look the students in the eyes.
Mayor John Kartak was one of two in attendance who expressed disapproval of a ban.
He noted that numerous countries generated much more plastic waste than the United States. He said he had also picked up much more litter from plastic bottles than bags.
The City Council received several emails on the topic, mostly in support of a ban. One was anti-ban and another expressed concern about enacting a ban rather than waiting on the state’s decision, council president Jason Sanders said in a follow-up interview.
Trim began her presentation with a little show and tell. She took out a teacup-sized bird’s nest and had audience members pass it around.
What at first looked like twigs were actually brown and black strips of plastic and shredded plastic fibers.
While the nest circulated, Trim shared statistics.
Americans use an average of 500 of the disposable plastic bags annually, Trim said.
The deteriorating plastic degrades into minuscule pieces that will last hundreds of years and often ended up in fishes’ bellies, she explained.
By 2025 she said, scientists have estimated for every three pounds of fish in the oceans, there will be one pound of plastic.
Local retailers QFC and Fred Meyer, both owned by Kroger, are already planning to do away with plastic bags by 2025.
The plastic bag ban ordinances cities have approved typically permit other types of plastic bags such as those used in pharmacies, to deliver newspapers and to hold meat and seafood.
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