The Kent City Council may jump on the bandwagon next year to ban plastic bags.
“I would like to see the city move forward if the state doesn’t take action,” said Councilman Dennis Higgins at the council’s Public Works Committee meeting on Dec. 10 after a city staff presentation.
Higgins then asked city staff to begin to prepare an ordinance for early next year.
The Everett and Gig Harbor city councils passed single-use plastic bag bans earlier this month to take effect in 2019. Edmonds passed the first ban in 2009, and now more than 25 cities in the state have bans, including Seattle and Tacoma.
The bans mainly impact grocery stores and other retail outlets. Customers must bring reusable bags or pay 5 to 10 cents for a paper bag to carry their items home. The fees help stores offset the paper bag costs. Most of the bans exempt plastic bags used for produce.
Kent City Councilwoman Brenda Fincher joined other politicians at a press conference last month at the Seattle Aquarium to kick off a campaign for the state Legislature to ban plastic bags at grocery stores and other retail outlets. State Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, and Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, announced they will introduce companion bills in January in Olympia to address plastic pollution and recycling contamination due to plastic bags.
“We are seeing plastic litter along the highways and in our public spaces,” Fincher said. “We need to reduce bags so that they don’t end up contributing to the litter going into our creeks and lakes. Numerous countries have banned plastic bags, and so we are behind the curve.”
Tony Donati, city of Kent assistant solid waste coordinator, told the Public Works Committee that the states of California and Hawaii ban plastic bags, and more and more cities are adopting similar ordinances.
Plastic doesn’t decompose, it breaks down into smaller and smaller bits from erosion, Donati said. Much of the plastic ends up in oceans, including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an accumulation zone of plastic between California and Hawaii.
“It’s two times the size of Texas,” said Donati, who gathered information compiled by Zero Waste Washington. “Plastics impact more than 600 species.”
A gray whale that washed up on Alki Beach in Seattle had 20 plastic bags in its belly, Donati said.
Donati said plastic bags are a litter problem as well. Besides littering highways, the bags contaminate compost and gum up the rotors at recycling facilities.
“We are thrilled that the city of Kent is considering an ordinance,” Heather Trim, executive director of Zero Waste Washington, said at the Public Works Committee meeting.
Kroger Co. announced earlier this year that by 2025, it will phase out single-use plastic bags and transition to reusable bags across its family of stores, which include Fred Meyer and QFC. Kent has two Fred Meyer stores and one QFC.
A group of Kent residents approached the City Council in 2015 about adopting a ban, including an appearance by the Bag Monster, aka Abbe Gloor, dressed up covered with plastic bags.
“I’d like to see a ban in the city proceed – it’s a little different than what the state is going after,” Fincher said. “The Bag Monster has been here, and we’ve looked at this for a couple of years. I am fully on board for this, it’s something we need to do. Countries have done this – Kenya, China, Rowanda and a number of other countries.”
“These plastic bags don’t break down, and we have to look at what we are doing to keep our planet livable – that’s why we are looking into this as an ordinance for our city,” Higgins said. “The educational aspect of it is very welcome. We are not trying to create a big, bad government agency but make a change in daily habits.”