Single-use plastic bags to be banned Jan. 1

Kitsap County, Bremerton and Port Orchard enact ordinances

PORT ORCHARD — In many parts of Kitsap County beginning Jan. 1, don’t expect that retailers will bag up your purchases into those familiar thin plastic bags.

That’s due to a new law passed Aug. 12 by the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners to prohibit retailers in unincorporated areas of the county from providing thin plastic carryout bags for customer purchases. For those who don’t bring in their own reusable bag, retailers will be required as part of the new regulation to charge customers 8 cents for each paper bag they use instead.

Small plastic bags used to protect items in stores, such as fruit, vegetables and meat, will still be allowed.

Coinciding with the new regulation that takes effect Jan. 1 are laws recently enacted by the cities of Bremerton and Port Orchard. The City of Bremerton’s ordinance was adopted by the City Countil on June 5, followed by passage of a similar plastic-bag ban in Port Orchard on Aug. 20. Those cities also enact their ordinances on the first day of the New Year.

Port Orchard had a public hearing for the city’s draft ordinance on Aug. 13. Additional testimony from residents was gathered on Aug. 20 prior to the City Council’s vote on its own ordinance.

The City of Poulsbo, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and the Suquamish Tribe do not have plastic-bag ordinances. The new legislation also does not apply to retailers on Naval installations, according to the county commissioners’ office.

The City of Bainbridge Island has banned the use of plastic bags since 2012. There are now 32 jurisdictions in Washington state, including Seattle and Gig Harbor, that have instituted plastic-bag laws.

According to the county, retailers have the option to charge customers more than 8 cents a bag. If a store-supplied bag is included in the purchase, a charge will be listed under “bag” on their receipt along with their other charges. Paper bags must contain at least 40-percent recycled content, the county said.

Why has Kitsap County and some of its municipalities joined the growing number of jurisdictions in Washington state to ban the use of plastic bags by stores?

The county wrote in an emailed FAQ that the legislation’s goal is to reduce waste, prevent litter and reduce contamination in the recycling system. Kitsap County uses 87 million plastic bags every year but only 12 percent are recycled in bag drop-off bins, it reported.

Bags are one of the top 10 littered items along Washington’s roads. When bags enter marine environments, the county said, they break into small pieces that are ingested by marine animals and humans. Bags are not accepted in curbside recycling because they get tangled in sorting equipment.

Need a reusable bag? The county has provided a supply of them (while supplies last) at any Kitsap Regional Library branch. Ask at the front desk.