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Snohomish's plastic bag ban begins Jan. 1

SNOHOMISH — A plastic bag ban comes into effect Jan. 1 in the city, and shoppers would need to bring their own bags to avoid being charged a fee.
The City Council passed the bag ban ordinance in February, requiring that retailers charge customers a pass-through charge of 10 cents for each carryout bag. Everett charges 5 cents.
The ban phases out the thin, single-use plastic bags used to carry out groceries and other goods.
Snohomish follows Seattle, Everett, Bellingham and about 20 other cities in the state in banning plastic bags. A statewide ban in the Legislature failed this year.
The ordinance applies to all stores and restaurants. Businesses can apply for a one-year exemption through the Mayor’s office for “undue hardship” caused by the change-over.
The food bank is exempt from charging the fee, and there is an exemption for stores to not charge people who qualify for food assistance programs, including Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
Making a habit of bringing a bag along is a new practice for many, and that is the intent in regulating plastic bag use.
It “is really to encourage the use of reusable” bags, said Wendy Poischbeg, the city’s Economic Development and Communications Manager.
Last week, shoppers at the Dollar Tree store off Avenue D were looking forward to the change, and some already were in the habit of bringing a bag.
“I have a pretty good habit” of preparing to go without plastic bags, said Camillus Williams. He said he and his family enjoy hiking and outdoor activities, and are disappointed to see plastic bags littering their view of the outdoors. He said he carries reusable mesh produce-bags to avoid plastics, and looks forward to the city’s ban due to the “impact that plastic bags have on the environment.”
Poischbeg said that is the purpose of the law: to reduce waste.
“The amount of impact — that floating plastic island in the middle of the ocean is no joke,” she said, referring to The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of non-biodegradable microplastics and marine debris.
Poischbeg is taking part, by placing her own reusable bags closer to the door of her home so she’ll remember to bring them along. She is also considering using a product that is made of beeswax: a reusable cover for leftovers that can replace plastic-wrap.
According to The Watershed Institute, plastics emit toxic chemicals into waterways, harming wildlife and finding its way into food and water supplies.
Plastic bags are not biodegradable. When they are discarded, it costs $700 to $1,000 per ton for recycling centers to remove plastic films from other recyclables, according to a fact sheet the city provided.
The city’s ban was seeded in the fall of 2018 at a City Council meeting, by a public comment from resident Karen Gahm. Meeting minutes say she expressed her love for Snohomish and spoke of alternatives to single-use plastics. Gahm is a member of Snohomish Rising.
Shoppers in Snohomish appear ready for the change.
Joyce McFarland of Snohomish has independently taken on a set of recycling habits at home. As for the bags, she is not concerned about the 10-cent fee for paper bags: “I usually just bring my own bags.”
Joshua Tompkins of Snohomish had already shopped in Bellingham, where a bag ban was in place since the summer of 2012. He said he avoids bags anyway. “Personally, if it’s only a few things, I don’t take them,” he said.
Linda Murray of Snohomish was exiting Haggen on a chilly December afternoon. She was happy to hear of the ban. “I see what it’s doing in the ocean” to use plastic bags, she said, adding that India and other nations were inundated with discarded plastics.
Twelve-year-old Langston Santos listened as his mom was asked what she thought of the plastic bag ban: she passed on commenting but stepped aside so he could speak his mind. “I think that it’ll help to save the turtles,” Santos said, but added “that 10 cents, that’ll make me go broke.”
The nine-month lag between passage and implementation of the ban was planned to allow businesses to prepare, Poischbeg said.


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