Seattle Takes Aim at Plastic Bags

Proposes second ban

SEATTLE -- The Seattle City Council has proposed a sweeping ban on plastic bags that would target not just grocery stores, but drug stores, restaurants, department stores, convenience stores, home-improvement stores, food trucks and farmers markets, according to a report on

The ordinance, unveiled this month, would go further than bag bans in many other cities, which mostly apply to groceries and sometimes drug stores. In Seattle, customers would have to bring their own bags or buy a paper bag for 5 cents apiece under the ordinance.

The bill is Seattle's second attempt to regulate plastic bags, considered an environmental scourge that fouls oceans and chokes birds. In 2008, after the Council adopted a 20-cent fee on the bags, the plastics industry spent $1.4 million to crush the measure. Voters repealed the fee in 2009.

"The goal of this legislation is to protect Puget Sound and reduce waste," city councilmember Mike O'Brien, who sponsored the new bag ordinance. "Anything that we use for a couple of minutes should not still be around for a couple of years.”

Bag foes said the ban has more support than did the doomed bag fee, which many voters viewed as more bureaucracy and another steep tax for government, according to the report.

That fee had gone back to the city. But the proposed 5-cent, paper-bag fee would go to retailers to reimburse them for stocking the bags.

If passed, Seattle's ban would exempt customers on government food assistance, who wouldn't have to pay the 5-cent bag fee. It would apply only to "single-use" checkout bags made of plastic, or a renewable material that's less than a predetermined thickness. It would not apply to produce, bulk-ban and dry-cleaning bags.