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Proposed ban on plastic bags returns

Wed., Jan. 11, 2012

Hearing is set for today on bill that died last year

OLYMPIA – Momentum for a statewide ban on plastic bags appeared to be mounting three weeks after Seattle’s City Council unanimously banned single-use plastic bags from groceries and other retail stores.

A state Senate bill that died last session before receiving a public hearing was reintroduced Monday by Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, and will have a public hearing today.

“There are things about this product that we need to finally and resolutely face,” Chase said. “This is not good for ourselves, for our children, our grandchildren or for marine life. We need to finally say, ‘enough.’ ”

In the House, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, introduced a bag ban measure Tuesday similar to one he brought forward – and watched die with no public hearing – last year. He has scheduled a press conference Thursday together with a coalition of environmental groups to tout it.

While no state has yet banned plastic bags, the number of cities with bans is on the rise. In Washington, the number of cities with plastic bag bans has grown from one a year ago to four: Seattle, Bellingham, Edmonds and Mukilteo.

“As more and more cities adopt bans, retailers are beginning to understand that a city-by-city approach doesn’t work well,” said Fitzgibbon, noting that local laws have subtle differences that can make compliance for larger retailers a headache. However, he acknowledged, his bill will face opposition, and a statewide ban on plastic bags could be years away.

Opponents of the proposed ban say it would limit consumer choice and represent an unnecessary government overreach.

In a statement, Mark Daniels, a vice president at plastic bag maker Hilex Poly, said that restricting the use of plastic bags “pushes people to less environmentally-friendly options which require more energy to produce and transport, and reusable bags, which are not recyclable.”

Jan Teague, president of the Washington Retail Association, worries that curbs on non-biodegradable products will not end with plastic bags. Environmentalists, she said, “have a laundry list that’s miles long. Where does it end?”

Seattle’s ordinance, which was approved unanimously following months of discussion and debate, takes effect in July 2012. It includes a provision to charge a nickel fee for the use of paper bags, to encourage people to bring their own bags when they go shopping.


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