Seattle joins global movement to protect marine wildlife

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Council President Richard Conlin
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw
Councilmember Tim Burgess
Councilmember Sally J. Clark
Councilmember Jean Godden
Councilmember Bruce Harrell
Councilmember Nick Licata
Councilmember Mike O’Brien
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen

Seattle joins global movement to protect marine wildlife
City Council unanimously votes to ban plastic carry out bags

Seattle – Today the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to pass Council Bill 117345, a bill to protect Puget Sound and protect marine wildlife by banning plastic carry-out bags. The bill encourages the use of reusable shopping bags by requiring grocers and retailers to charge a nickel for paper bags.

Washingtonians use more than 2 billion single-use plastic bags each year. Seattle alone uses approximately 292 million plastic bags annually, only 13% of which are recycled, according to Seattle Public Utilities.

"This bill is a great example of a broad and diverse coalition of people and organizations coming together to do the right thing for our environment," said prime sponsor, City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, chair of the Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee. "We have the support of grocers, retailers, restaurants, labor unions, and environmental organizations in Seattle. We also have broad grassroots involvement from residents who have been emailing and calling in support of this issue for months now."

Environmental organizations in support of the plastic bag ban include Environment Washington, People for Puget Sound, Surfrider Foundation, Sierra Club, and Zero Waste Seattle. The bill is also supported by the Northwest Grocery Association, the Washington Restaurant Association, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, and some local independent grocers, such as Metropolitan Market, Town & Country Markets, PCC, and Central Co-op.

"We know that recycling alone cannot protect Puget Sound and our ocean waters from these plastic bags," said Councilmember O’Brien. "Of course people are not intentionally littering their bags into Puget Sound, but with so many in circulation, bags are ending up there, causing real damage to habitats and wildlife. Bringing our own reusable bags when we go shopping is a simple step we can all take that will protect our environment and reduce unnecessary waste."

"In the last few years, we have learned much more about how much plastic is in Puget Sound and the impact it has on marine wildlife," said Katrina Rosen, Field Director for Environment Washington. "Banning plastic bags is an important step we must take to protect Puget Sound wildlife and we are happy to see City Council stepping up to be a part of this growing global movement."

Seattle is the fourth city in Washington to ban plastic bags following Edmonds, Bellingham, and, most recently, Mukilteo. Regionally, Seattle joins the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Kauai, more than a dozen municipalities in California—such as San Francisco, San Jose, Malibu, and Los Angeles County—more than 30 coastal towns in Alaska, and neighboring Portland in taking action against plastic bags. Additionally, at least 20 nations have also enacted efforts to reduce or eliminate plastic bag use, including Germany, Ireland, China, Taiwan, India, and Kenya.

The ordinance will go into effect July 1, 2012. Seattle Public Utilities will be responsible for outreach to businesses and public education over the next six months and after the law takes effect. The utilities’ solid waste division will also monitor and enforce the ordinance.

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