Kent City Councilwoman Brenda Fincher joined other politicians at a press conference Wednesday at the Seattle Aquarium to kick off a campaign for the state Legislature to ban plastic bags at grocery stores and 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. The reusable bag legislation will build off the existing 23 local ordinances, including Seattle, already in place in the state.
“Right now, there are more than 86 million metric tons of plastic in our oceans and the equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash for every foot of coastline spills into the oceans annually,” Ranker said in a press release from Environment Washington. “We must lead with bold progressive action to stop plastic waste from ending up in our oceans.”
Customers would be expected to bring their own reuseable bags to stores or could pay as much as 10 cents per bag for paper bags.
Peterson served on the Edmonds City Council when it championed the first reusable bag ordinance in Washington in 2009.
“The problem of plastic bags has only gotten worse since then. They are causing a major contamination problem in our recycling and compost streams,” Peterson said.
Fincher said the Kent City Council’s Public Works Committee will consider a plastic bag ordinance at its December meeting.
“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.”
The average American uses 500 bags per year, said Heather Trim, executive director of Zero Waste Washington.
“Let’s choose wildlife over waste,” said Bruce Speight, executive director of Environment Washington. “Moving beyond single-use plastics is something we can do right now, and we look forward to working with the Legislature to make that happen. The passage of the reusable bag bill would be a big step forward in reducing the plastic pollution that threatens wildlife and our environment.”