Seattle’s long sought-after ban on single-use plastic shopping bags will officially go into effect tomorrow after being approved unanimously by the Seattle City Council back in December.
Under the new ban, all businesses, including grocery stores, retail stores, convenience stores, home-improvement stores, sporting goods stores, farmers markets and even local independently-owned shops will be prohibited from issuing single-use plastic bags to customers.
Stores that fail to comply will be dinged with a $250 fine.
Paper bags will still be available, but a minimum 5-cent fee on large grocery bags will aim to curtail a likely increase in demand for the paper-based products. Instead, the explicit goal of the ban is to encourage Seattle residents to switch to reusable carryout bags, according to Seattle Public Utilities (SPU).
“Let the nickel you pay for a paper shopping bag be a reminder to shop with reusable bags,” says the SPU website.
The ban is being met with open arms by many environmentally-friendly citizens in Seattle. The Seattle Times reports that 292 million plastic bags are used each year in the city, with only 13% being recycled. The excess bags are said to spell trouble for marine wildlife and to contribute to general litter in the city.
Abigail McCarthy, a local advocate for the ban, states on the website Ban the Bag, “This is a common sense ordinance, enacted for common sense reasons. We Seattle-ites take pride in our beautiful Puget Sound, in our clean, green parks, and in our progressive policies.”
However, not everyone in Seattle is seeing green.
Elizabeth Mayer, an activist with the nonpartisan grassroots ‘peace’ group We Are Change Seattle, feels that the ban is both unnecessary and overreaching.
According to Mayer, “I do like the idea of using fewer (or no) plastic bags, but telling people what kind of bags to use, and not allowing them to make their own choice, is bound to make more enemies of your cause than friends.”
Regarding the purported positive environmental effects, she states, “Its effectiveness at protecting the environment will be minimal I think. For instance, the people who re-use bags, as say garbage bags, will now be forced into buying [regular] plastic garbage bags… and [they] will likely be at least twice as thick as the old re-used bags. For these folks it will likely result in increased plastic consumption, and certainly increased expense.”
Mayer concludes, “If you want people to be good, you have to give people the option to be good, not just force them to do things you’ve decided are good.”
Good or bad, plastic bags will now be a no-no going forward for the citizens of Seattle.