Plastic bag fee set for Seattle
Seattle City Council passed an ordinance that will charge
shoppers a fee on disposable plastic and paper shopping
bags. A separate ordinance was also passed that bans
expanded polystyrene food containers. This new ordinance
makes Seattle the first city in the nation to encourage
its residents to curtail the use of disposable bags and
instead utilize reusable options by imposing a fee on
disposable shopping bags.
One part of the package creates a fee of $0.20 for disposable
shopping bags provided at convenience, drug, and grocery
store cash registers, beginning on January 1, 2009.
Seattle Public Utilities estimates 360 million disposable
bags are used in the city every year. The proposal focuses
on these stores because they are the source of more than
70 percent of all disposable shopping bags distributed.
The fee applies to both paper and plastic and is expected
to reduce the use of disposable bags by more than 50
percent, or at least 184 million bags annually.
The clear plastic bags used for individual items such
as fruits, vegetables, and bulk items will not be subject
to the fee.
In response to citizen concerns, the Council amended
the legislation to direct Seattle Public Utilities to
help seniors and low-income households by distributing
free reusable bags and working with food banks, people
using food stamps, and shoppers receiving other forms
of direct assistance.
The bag fee legislation helps businesses defray the cost
of administering the program by allowing larger retailers
to keep $0.05 of every bag to cover administrative costs.
Small businesses, those grossing less than $1 million
annually, will be allowed to keep the entire $0.20 fee.
Some of the funds generated will be used to offset a
portion of the needed solid waste rate increase associated
with new garbage contracts. Part of the funds collected
will also go to support Seattle Public Utilities’ waste
prevention and recycling programs.
Another part of the new proposal will ban expanded polystyrene
food containers from restaurants and packaging from grocery
stores, beginning January 1, 2009. In July of 2010, foam
trays for raw meat and seafood will also be banned and
replaced with compostable alternatives.