City survey asks residents about banning plastic bags

A ban would eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags in area stores.

PORT ORCHARD — City officials first conducted a town hall meeting in May to gather citizen input about banning single-use plastic bags from area stores.

And beginning this week, the city is asking residents and business owners to take a brief online survey about whether a single-use ban should be instituted in Port Orchard.

City officials ask survey takers this question: Should the City of Port Orchard ban single-use plastic bags in coordination with Kitsap County in a countywide effort?

The survey can be accessed at the city’s website. until Oct. 1.

At the Town Hall meeting at City Hall May 29, Kitsap County Public Works’ Solid Waste Division officials told a sparse audience that the county commissioners’ office had asked the department to evaluate the effectiveness of a ban on single-use plastic bags in the county.

Chris Piercy, the county division’s recycling coordinator, said single-use plastic bags are used just about everywhere. In Kitsap County, he said, 85 million of the bags are disposed of each year — and just one-half of one percent of that number are recycled here.

Charlotte Garrido, a Kitsap County commissioner, told attendees that the county was reviewing bans implemented by other cities and counties in Washington state.

“We’re still in an exploratory stage,” Piercy said of the county review. “[We’re] talking to stakeholders, including the City of Port Orchard and other cities in the county.”

Mayor Rob Putaansuu said at the meeting that the city hadn’t taken a position on banning single-use plastic bags, but had scheduled the session as a result of the county’s review process.

Pat Campbell, the county’s solid waste division manager, said the loudest argument for a ban is the adverse impact plastic bags have on recycling equipment. Currently, she said, plastic bags are not allowed in recycling bins, but that hasn’t kept residents from depositing them there.

“It’s a nightmare for [the recycling equipment],” Campbell said. “The bags catch on the rollers of their equipment. They have to stop the line at least once every shift for at least 20 minutes and have their employees pull the bags out of the equipment.”

Some residents attending that meeting weren’t convinced that a ban is needed, however. Donald Rude said he wants to see the city refrain from implementing a ban.

“Can you imagine using paper bags to clean up after your dog in the park?” Rude asked. He said many store clerks take a dim view of customers using their own bags.

“Many store clerks are upset with the use of personal carryout bags, as some of the bags customers bring in are so filthy they don’t want to touch them or even have them on their counter.”

At the May meeting, City Council member Cindy Lucarelli said that while she is a dedicated plastic-bag reuser, she’s worried about the impact a ban would impose on local retailers. Lucarelli wondered if an educational awareness campaign might be more effective.

“You’ve got a whole lot of people switching their habits from buying from the retail stores to online,” she said. “We benefit as a city from the sales of these local retailers.”