Bremerton has become the latest city in western Washington to ban plastic bags.
City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday banning single-use plastic bags and implementing an 8-cent fee for paper carryout bags.
“We need to work on reducing our consumption and disposal of things,” said Bremerton Councilmember Lori Wheat. “When we throw things away, there is no away. Each item goes somewhere, often into ever growing landfills. Recycling, while better, is no cure all.”
The ban covers plastic bags that are less than 2.25 mils thick. Bags that are thicker are considered reusable and will be allowed. Exceptions include bags for bulk items, meat, and produce. Stores also won’t be able to charge recipients of certain social programs.
The measure passed 6-1 with Councilmember Pat Sullivan casting the lone “no” vote. Sullivan said she opposed the measure, because she wasn’t in favor of governments mandating how much sellers should charge for an item.
“We all need to be stewards of our environment, but we can do so through education not forcing one’s behavior by charging you,” Sullivan said.
The council did consider foregoing a charge for paper bags while still banning plastic but worried it would burden businesses. Holly Chisa, a spokesperson for the Northwest Grocery Association, told council members that store costs jumped about $100,000 annually when a plastic bag ban is implemented without a pass-though charge for paper bags.
The ban will go into effect January 1, 2020 to allow grocers to liquidate their plastic bag supply and be prepared with other alternatives.
Bremerton’s ban is part of a similar initiative that Kitsap County is considering, according to the council.
Over a dozen other Washington cities have already banned plastic bags, including Seattle, Tacoma, and Snohomish. A bill to ban plastic bags statewide was introduced in Olympia last session, but it failed to pass.