It’s official: Disposable-bag fee on Seattle ballot August 18th

March 30, 2009 at 2:24 pm | In Bag fee battle | 15 Comments

The full City Council just made it official: You will vote August 18th on whether to approve or reject the ordinance that would require a 20-cent fee to be charged for every disposable shopping bag you use. Without discussion, councilmembers voted 8-0 to put the referendum on the ballot (approving this item).

15 Comments

  1. Question for Tracy, WSB peeps, anyone–is there a reason this went to a vote without discussion? And is there any more information on how it would actually work (impact on low income or those on assistance, providing each household with a bag?)

    Comment by Colleen — 5:02 pm March 30, 2009 #

  2. Of course, it traces back to last fall when the council approved the bag-fee and foam-ban proposal after public discussion/comment. Then signatures were gathered for a referendum to put the bag fee on the ballot so that voters would decide its fate. This was just the formal action to put the referendum on the ballot, and it first went through a council committee, which approved it, before today’s final vote, but I don’t think they could take much issue with whether to put the referendum before voters — it was mostly just their discretion, originally, whether to call a special election for the vote or put it on the primary ballot.
    .
    Re: the impact of the fee – that I’m not sure, but I’ll look around. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 5:18 pm March 30, 2009 #

  3. Is there anyone besides me that finds it odd that the Mayor and City Council first passed the ordinance to charge shoppers 20 cents for plastic bags saying we need to stop using them because they shouldn’t go into landfills and then earlier this month the City of Seattle removed 700 dumpsters behind downtown businesses and now those businesses are having to put their garbage into plastic bags when they didn’t before, therefore increasing the number of plastic bags going into landfills?
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008833869_dumpsterfree10m.html

    Comment by Alcina — 6:25 pm March 30, 2009 #

  4. I know, it just seems odd.

    Thanks TR–there’s a lot of unanswered questions for me with this issue, and I am curious to see how they are going to answer those before this goes to the ballot, if they will at all. Especially when it comes to issues of those who can’t afford the fee.

    Comment by Colleen — 8:40 pm March 30, 2009 #

  5. I believe it is a way for the city to pay for that tunnel. I have heard stories from city employees discussing budgets cut so money could go there. Where does it stop? I even heard they are not replacing street lights anymore! Money is going to the tunnel.

    Comment by a — 7:15 am March 31, 2009 #

  6. i for one, don’t disagree w/ this charge… i am low income but over the past year i have gotten many free bags from local business, purchased one each shopping trip….it’s better all the way around. we’re just putting up a fuss because they are making it a law.

    it does make sense re the dumpsters. the businesses DID use bags, there were just bags of garbage in the dumpster.

    the bags are on sale for $0.99 in most places….

    if you don’t want the bag money to go towards something you’re against (tunnel) then bring cloth bags… bring a knapsack… empty your groceries into your trunk….

    Comment by WSparent — 8:52 am March 31, 2009 #

  7. I don’t disagree, I just think it’s done poorly and does place those with low/no income at a disadvantage, when 80 cents makes all the difference to someone (for example.) There are better ways to go about this, and I wish the city for once would think before acting.

    When this was first discussed, the city was going to provide one shopping bag per household–and if that is going to continue, I want to see how it’s going to get paid for. We’ve also never heard anything about the Seattle Public Utilities plan to provide more bags for low income families.

    And I’m still confused on how it would work with something like WIC check if they didn’t have their own bag–pretty much taxing someone for stepping up and trying to take care of their family.

    I’m not surprised if this is going to fund the tunnel, but did the city really look at how much they are going to make off of this?

    Comment by Colleen — 9:42 am March 31, 2009 #

  8. see that’s what i am saying- i am LOW INCOME… very low income. no internet at home. knowing that these things are in the works i prepared myself and my family so it wouldn’t just hit my teenyweenie budget.
    also- you can’t tell me that people don’t have a bookpag, a pillowcase, a basket…. i just don’t believe it. and if they really don’t have that then they aren’t going to be buying more groceries than they can carry. i wish that people would stop making excuses for us low income folks. we should not be held to any different standards – responsibility wise-

    providing a bag would be an awesome thing, for everyone. the grocery stores should give one free w/ siging up for their club savers card….

    if people are stepping up and taking care of their family- that includes being socialy responsible.

    sorry to be so un-seattle soft, but i won’t raise my children to believe that just because we’re poverty line, doesn’t make us any less responsible for society and the earth.

    Comment by WSparent — 9:53 am March 31, 2009 #

  9. No worries-I get and understand your comments, and applaud. I guess the 10+ years of grocery retail give me a total perspective. I’ve got countless stories of those who were shopping with only the EBT card, no cash on it—we’re now going to create another stigma for someone who might have to scrounge to get the 20 cents/40 cents, since paying 1-3 bucks for a bag is out of the question. Or taxing the state money of a WIC check if someone doesn’t have a bag.

    And I don’t see how we can start taxing for using of bags, without any sort of education or assistance–putting everyone on the same playing field. The mayor and city council talked a big talk about that months ago, but yet now nothing. How are they going to pay for the one bag per household, and what did Seattle Utilities find about providing bags for some families?

    Or really, if I’m getting taxed 20 cents a bag paper or plastic, I want paper every time–how is that going to affect? Can’t wait for the overstuffing of the canvas bags (which as I said, have become lesser quality in the last year to help grocery stores find a profit) if I’m not suppose to be using canvas every time, I want grocery stores to produce a better quality bag, not one going to rip every month.

    It is just to me, there’s a lot of unanswered questions and no really thought behind this–nor do I have any faith in the city to answer all of these questions before we get close to the vote and all the scare tactics happen.

    Comment by Colleen — 10:25 am March 31, 2009 #

  10. Does any one else wonder about sanitation? Just glance inside some cars. People are going to use and re-use these bags…place them in their trunks/cars on top of who knows what! Maybe some liquid will spill inside the bag…will it be washed…I doubt it (unless we’re ordered to by the mayor) THEN… back to the store with the filthy bag(s)all placed in the child’s seat, and on to our grocery shopping…YUK!

    Comment by Wilson — 1:46 pm March 31, 2009 #

  11. are we now talkig about sharing bags? if the bag is dirty- then wash it…. if you’re a germaphobe.. bring some cleaner to the store with you. THere are already TONS of germs on the carts…hate to burst your bubble!!!

    Comment by WSparent — 3:02 pm March 31, 2009 #

  12. The paper ones are recyclable!!!!

    Comment by Jtk — 3:17 pm March 31, 2009 #

  13. What about stores that use a cornstarch based plastic bag that is bio-degradable? Will they still have to charge the $.20 tax???
    If this passes you will see a drop in the taxes collected in the city, esp in the areas that are along the border of King County.
    Although I no longer live with in Seattle city limits, I still live within 2.5 miles of the QFC in Westwood, a place I like to shop, but there is also a Safeway on Roxbury that is outside the city limits and Fred Meyer, two Albertson’s, Bernie and Bros, and another Safeway that are well with in my comfort driving range for groceries.
    There was a far, far BETTER way to get people to stop using the plastic bags. All they would have had to do is instead of taxing the people $.20, reward those that bring in their reusable bags $.05 a bag off their bill.
    You get more flies with honey than with crap.
    But I guess YOUR (you have NO idea how GOOD it feels to say that!!!) esteemed Mayor and YOUR forward thinking city council (THAT too!!) aren’t bright enough to think of that.
    E-WR

    Comment by Ex-Westwood Resident — 3:27 pm March 31, 2009 #

  14. I agree, there are a lot better ways to do this, and somehow I feel it’s going to become like everything else where the city does exactly what they want.

    That’s my other thought–in everything I’ve read, it’s a tax on plastic and paper–is that still the case?

    Comment by Colleen — 5:12 pm March 31, 2009 #

  15. this seems like legislation where market could mandate changes more efficiently… eg: the cornstarch bags instead of plastic. incentives maybe but the penalty approach is silly. considering that A) the regular plastic bags are recyclable, and reusable
    and B) for those that normally reuse those bags, not having them now means we are going to go buy new plastic bags, thereby increasing demand in a market that shouldnt have more demand placed on it.

    we shop with canvas bags, but occasionally we will have some spillover and get a plastic bag from the store. we re use those bags for under counter trash can liners instead of buying plastic trash bags.

    this just seems a bit myopic and heavy handed

    Comment by bobby — 1:43 am April 3, 2009 #

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