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Are You Ready to Give Up Your Disposable Grocery Bags?
The City of Tacoma is considering considering a disposable bag ban - and they want to know what you think.
Last week the City dipped its toes in the water with an announcement that it may consider placing greater restrictions on disposale shopping bags. The Office of Environmental Policy and Sustainability will be collecting public input to help the council decide whether or not to pursue any such restrictions.
Restrictions would likely apply to retail stores within Tacoma, but not to restaurants and nonprofit charitable organizations. The bags being talked about would be specifically disposable shopping bags of the type typically given out at check out aisles, including both plastic and paper bags. Not included would be bags given with deli or produce purchases, "advertising and promotional bags," bags for pet waste, or yard waste. Plastic garbage bags and other bags could still be sold.
This is not a new idea - in 2014 we wrote that the Sustainable Tacoma Commission had been exploring the idea as a step to reduce the negative environmental impacts of single-use plastic bags. At that time there were a few issues to be considered - the amount of staff time needed to implement and enforce such a ban, and the equity implications of a ban that might have disproportionately negative impacts on low-income residents, particularly those without cars.
In answer to concerns about equity, the City's information page says that low-income citizens would likely be exempt from restrictions. This could include individuals and families receiving SNAP, WIC, TANF or FAP benefits. The City also might consider providing free reusable bags to low-income individuals.
It is estimated that about 2 billion (yes, with a "B") plastic bags are used in Washington every year. Recycling rates for plastic bags are low - below 6% nationally. Although Tacoma does accept plastic bags for recycling, if they aren’t recycled properly (bundled into one bag and tied at the top), they can jam recycling equipment, causing costly shutdowns. Most bags are thrown away, and many find their way into creeks, rivers, oceans, and highways as litter.
If you have opinions about regulating/restricting/banning plastic bags, there are a couple of public comment opportunities coming up:
- Through Sunday, December 20, the public is invited to give feedback through an online survey accessible from the City’s website at cityoftacoma.org/ShoppingBags
- Give feedback at the Sustainable Tacoma Commission meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 8, from 3:30-5:30 p.m. in the Tacoma Municipal Building (747 Market St., 9th Floor).
Survey results will be discussed at the Infrastructure, Planning and Sustainability Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 13. More information is also available at cityoftacoma.org/ShoppingBags
If the City decides to go with a bag ban or restrictions, the new rules would likely go into effect sometime in 2016.
Are you ready to give up your disposable bags?
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