Mixed reaction at first meeting on plastic bag ban

The city of Bremerton held an open forum on Tuesday to discuss a proposed ban on single-use plastic shopping bags that officials say would go into effect by January of 2020.

The city council is taking input from citizens in a series of public forums, of which Tuesday’s was the first. Councilor Leslie Daugs also expressed interest in an online survey to gauge public support for the proposed measure.

According to the draft ordinance, certain businesses would be exempt from the ban including restaurants and dry cleaners. Grocery stores, convenience stores and other businesses beholden to the law would be allowed to provide paper bags at a fee of at least five cents.

During the public meeting, staff members screened an excerpt from the 2010 documentary “Bag It,” which seeks to demonstrate the negative effects of the ubiquitous consumer product on the environment – specifically on marine life – and on human health.

Many attendees expressed support for the proposal, while some were hesitant to get fully behind it.

Councilor Pat Sullivan said she does not like the requirement that businesses charge a fee for bags. She also said she tends to reuse her single-use grocery store bags to pick up dog waste, among other things.

“I do not support the government telling business owners what they can and cannot charge,” she said.

Daugs said she was not sure about the mandatory fee.

Supporters of the mandatory fee say it will incentivize consumers to bring their own bags, which is better for the environment than even paper bags. Retailers have also expressed support, saying it will help recoup the costs of paper bags, which are more expensive than plastic bags.

Philip Nusz said he thought the ban was unnecessary. He said he resuses all of the single-use plastic bags that he gets to line his trash cans or to help with yard work.

Still other attendees expressed their support for the measure. Cynthia Mora said she appreciates the required fee.

“As consumers, if we’re hit in our pocketbooks, we’re going to pay attention,” she said.

An estimated 97 million single-use plastic bags are consumed each year in the county, according to Christopher Piercy, a county solid waste program supervisor. The bags are blamed for clogging recycling equipment and polluting bodies of water with materials that are non-biodegradable.

Both Seattle and Bainbridge enacted similar plastic bag bans in 2012. Both laws require retailers to charge at least five cents per paper bag, with proceeds going to the retailer.

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