Seattle announces decline in plastic bag usage, looks to expand rules
- Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) has announced a 50% decline in the amount of plastic bags ending up in the waste stream since the city's bag ban took effect in 2012.
- Some businesses—such as fast food restaurants—are exempt from the rule and can still give out petroleum bags. However some of these establishments are giving out green bags, which residents have confused with compostable bags, so SPU may suggest a restriction on certain colors that are allowed.
- SPU also wants to extend a 5-cent charge on paper bags which is set to expire in December. The proposals will be presented to the Seattle City Council for approval later this year.
These new figures on plastic bag reduction will surely be seen as a positive sign by the national bag ban movement. Another sign the ordinance is working as planned is that the city has yet to fine any businesses for noncompliance. Some retailers have complained about reusable bags being dirty, however the city says it will do more to publicize the fairly obvious need to wash them regularly.
The extension of a charge on paper bags also lines up with the approach of other major cities by emphasizing that the goal is ultimately about reducing the use of all disposable bags, not just plastic. A bill recently passed by the New York City Council also places a 5-cent fee on paper, along with plastic, though has run into trouble with the state legislature. A previous October start date for that program has now been delayed to February so lawmakers can work out more details.
While bag bans and fees have also received mixed reactions in some states lately they're still gaining traction in smaller municipalities. California is the national leader, though that could change depending on the outcome of a fall referendum vote, and Massachusetts has been making fast progress with at least 35 municipalities adopting ordinances so far.
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