SEATTLE -- At the one month mark, Seattle's plastic shopping bag ban appears to be taking hold easier than people expected. At Bert's Red Apple Market in Madison Park, it looked like equal numbers of shoppers brought their reusable bags or paid a nickel for paper bags with handles. A hardy minority (mostly men) just carried their purchases in their hands.
The law prohibits retailers from passing out one-time use plastic bags. Shoppers must provide their own bag or pay a nickel for a paper bag. Thicker, reusable plastic bags like the ones used in department stores are okay. The nickel charge goes back to the retailer to cover costs.
"I think the transition has been a lot smoother than people thought it would be," said Terry Short, a manager at the market. "People are receptive to it. It's taken about a month to figure out how to do it. And if they don't want to pay for a paper bag for their groceries, they bundle them up (in their arms) and carry them home."
There are exceptions. Those using food stamps don't have to pay the nickel fee. Also, one-use plastic bags can still be used for produce, meats, dry cleaning, newspapers and take-out food. City officials say giving people a month to prepare for the change -- and passing out 40,000 reusable bags -- made it more acceptable.
"The stores, in particular, have done a great job promoting reusable bags," said Public Utilities spokesman Dick Lilly. "Both by giving some away, just keeping them on display. People can buy them for not a lot of money."
One young girl shopping with her mother supports reusable bags, even though she often has to trot back to the car to retrieve them when her mom leaves them behind. "I think it's really good for the environment (because) plastic bags are not biodegradable."
The city of Bellingham will start its plastic bag ban on August 1.