Bremerton City Council approved an ordinance Wednesday, regulating the distribution of single-use plastic and biodegradable carryout bags.
The motion carried 6-1 with council members Leslie Daugs, Kevin Gorman, Lori Wheat, Michael Goodnow, Richard Huddy and Eric Younger all supporting the ordinance, while council member Pat Sullivan was the sole opposition.
The basis of ordinance No. 5368 is that plastic bags considered single-use are prohibited. Plastic bags less than 2.25 millimeters thick will be banned and bags constructed of durable plastic (more than 2.25 millimeters) are considered reusable.
Some exceptions will be had, which include plastic bags to be used for frozen food, meat, fish, produce and bulk items. One of the driving forces of this ordinance is the danger plastic bags pose to wildlife and the environment.
Plastic bags can clog up recycling machines and slow down the separation process. The plastic bags also degrade into small particles that can damage soil and waterways, City of Bremerton Public Works Operations Manager Malinka Hawkins-Bates said.
Data shows that Kitsap County consumes around 87 million plastic bags per year, with only 12 percent being recycled. An estimated 32 percent of all plastics produced annually end up in the environment.
A pass-through fee of eight cents will be charged for each paper or thicker plastic bag provided at the point of sale if the consumer does not provide their own bags. Proponents of the ordinance say the charge will be an incentive for customers to bring reusable bags when they shop and will help stores save money from purchasing more expensive paper bags.
The ban is part of a statewide effort to reduce waste and promote the use of reusable bags. City officials discussed a ban of this nature last year but was put on hold due to the Legislature debating a bill that would have banned single-use plastic bags in the state. The bill passed the Senate in March but never made it to the House floor for a vote.
“Until that statewide policy passes, we are working city to city to make sure they are as closely aligned so when a state law passes, there will be as little shuffle as possible,” Holly Chisa of Northwest Grocery Association said.
29 other municipalities in the state have approved ordinances regulating plastic bags, according to Chisa. Council President Eric Younger seemed baffled to why the state can’t seem to pass something so “simple.”
“If we can address this at the local level and it makes common sense, why can’t they do that at the state level?”
Councilwoman Sullivan opposed the ordinance because she is not in favor of the government telling businesses to set a fee for the bags.
“While I believe we all need to be stewards of the environment, I believe we can do so through education,” she said.
Kitsap County and the city of Port Orchard are also looking at their bag ban ordinances. The ordinance will be implemented in Bremerton Jan. 1, 2020.
Tyler Shuey is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org