Seattle’s City Council’s War On Disposable Bags: Referendum 1

One of the first things I noticed upon moving to Seattle was its environmental consciousness.  Recycling cans preside next to every city trashcan; the city recycles paper, most plastics, aluminum foil and glass and composts your food and yard waste; and I have never been to a grocery store without seeing at least one person in line with their own reusable shopping bag (at Trader Joe’s  most people BYOBag).

Seattle has made recycling so easy that our 2 person home disposes of only one grocery size paper bag of trash per week.  The rest goes to recycling or yard waste to be turned into compost for the city’s parks. 

Sometimes, “consciousness” may seem like extremism, like when the city trash collectors leave behind any recyclable goods found in your trashcan or you get a to go box at a restaurant that slowly disintegrates or doesn’t close all the way because it’s made of corn products.  My favorite stories are those of employees at Microsoft who claim that their biodegradable coffee cups biodegrade before they finish their coffee.

The latest proposed by Greenie Mayor Nickels and the City Council via Referendum 1, is the levying of a $0.20 fee on every plastic and paper bag a shopper uses in connection with purchases made at a grocery store, convenience store, or drug store. 

Those for the fee state that the fee will make people use reusable shopping bags and reduce production and disposal of disposable bags.  There is some basis for this belief.  See http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/heifer/worldark_2009summer/#/10

The arguments of those against the fee center around the fact that (1) so many people use reusable bags already that the fee is unnecessary; (2) the fee is ineffective due to its exemptions – Walmart, Target, Fred Meyer and other big box stores and department stores are exempt; (3) the fee creates another level of bureaucratic waste via enforcement, collection and tracking of the fee, purchasing and distributing of reusable bags to Seattle residents; and (4) the fee works a hardship on the poor, disabled, elderly and those living on fixed incomes.    

As for me?  I already carry reusable bags to the grocery store, but sometimes I buy more groceries than I have bags for and I have to use a paper bag from the store.  I use those bags under the kitchen sink to collect recycling and trash.  In fact, I haven’t bought a trash bag in three years.  If the fee passes, I’ll have to start buying disposable trash bags, which just seems silly when the point of the fee is to reduce disposable bag use.  I think maybe a better idea would be to just ban plastic bags a la San Francisco.

What do you think, is the bag fee taking things too far? 

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