Exit133 is about Tacoma
Paper or Plastic? Or Maybe Not…
A plastic bag ban for Tacoma? It could happen in 2015.
The Sustainable Tacoma Commission has been exploring the possibility of implementing a plastic bag ban - studying other jurisdictions and the possible implementation and impacts of a ban on single-use plastic bags. Last week the commission brought the discussion to the City Council Infrastructure Planning and Sustainability Committee at its regular meeting.
Arguments in favor of a ban for Tacoma include the negative impact of the single use bags on the environment, Tacoma's goals for reduction of solid waste in the coming years, and the wide availability of alternatives to plastic bags. Supporters point to other jurisdictions like Seattle, where they say implementation has not been bad for business.
Environmental Services staff are also looking at the idea of a plastic ban, saying that it could show up as part of a forthcoming Materials Management Plan. They like the idea, though there are questions about the amount of staff time needed to implement such a policy, versus other possible actions to reduce solid waste in Tacoma. On balance with the amount of staff time to implement such a plan is that it would be a fairly high profile action toward waste reduction.
On the other hand, as was pointed out in last week's discussion, there are concerns about the equity implications of a ban for low-income individuals and families, and those without cars. Staff said they plan to look into those issues, among others before making a recommendation.
Councilmember Mello brought up models from other jurisdictions, where plastic bags are banned at the checkout counter, but plastic bags remain an option in produce and other grocery departments, and paper bags remain available at a nickel or dime charge. The fee charged for those bags goes to provide reusable bags to individuals and families on WIC or other low-income programs. Councilmember Boe brought up the question of whether paper or plastic is better, mentioning European systems that make higher grade plastic bags available at a charge.
The details of a proposal are clearly still being sorted out. If a plan emerges, a possible timeline could include six months of outreach and information gathering, culminating in an implementation process that could see an ordinance adopted sometime in June 2015.
It's not a done deal, but it sounds like we can expect to hear more of this conversation in early 2015, and a ban on single-use plastic bags could be headed to a grocery store near you as early as next summer. Are you on board?
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