Bag-fee battle: Supporters launch their counter-offensive

banbag.jpgOne week after WSB broke the news of signature-gathering for a city referendum to cancel the disposable-bag fee (see last Sunday’s report here), we have word of a counter-offensive: The sustainability-oriented moms’ group coolmomgrab.jpgis planning pro-bag-fee demonstrations citywide, including one at West Seattle Thriftway in Morgan Junction – same place where we found that paid signature-gatherer with referendum petitions last weekend – on Monday, 3-5 pm. West Seattle CoolMom leader Abby Suplizio says anyone who backs the bag fee is welcome to participate; CoolMom is being joined in the citywide pro-bag-fee effort by groups including BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag), Foam Free Seattle, People for Puget Sound, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Washington Toxics Coalition, Earth Ministry, Seattle Audubon Society, Seattle Rainforest Action Group, Sustainable West Seattle, WASHPIRG, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, and King County Conservation Voters. CoolMom also is suggesting its members show support by talking to management at independent grocers (whose advocacy group Washington Food Industry is partly behind the anti-bag-fee drive) such as Thriftway and Metropolitan Market, to reiterate support for the fee and the emphasis on using reusable bags. Meantime, WSB’er Diane Vincent noticed new disclosure text at the bottom of the anti-bag-fee website (which we mentioned here and here): It now says:

Paid for by the Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax.
Coalition Members:
Washington Food Industry
7-Eleven Inc.
Progressive Bag Affiliates of the American Chemistry Council

Do 7-Eleven customers really use that many bags?

37 Replies to "Bag-fee battle: Supporters launch their counter-offensive"

  • BigRed August 17, 2008 (8:07 am)

    Woo Hoo For!! We were just talking last nite about emailing Met. Market about the signature guy we saw outside yesterday. How hard is is it bring a bag people? I mean really?

  • DAS August 17, 2008 (8:39 am)

    It’s not about bringing a bag, I’m all for that. It’s the ridiculous tax that I’m against.

  • Nancy Folsom August 17, 2008 (9:08 am)

    I don’t know if WSB allows trackbacks, but I wrote this ( last week. In it I argue why it’s likely to be ineffective and point as have others that it doesn’t do anything about paper sacks, which will still be offered. Paper takes more energy to produce, takes more room in landfills, requires transportation (oil, gas), AND contributes to air pollution.

    It’s not just the industry that disagrees with the bag tax. If it was an outright ban on all plastic AND paper sacks, then I’d support it.

    It is, in my opinion, not a “good start” but a feel-good measure that will allow us to feel like we’re doing something green as we drive to the grocery store in our SUVs and big sedans.

  • Rhonda Porter August 17, 2008 (9:08 am)

    I don’t have an issue with bringing my own bags, I often do (when I remember). I don’t have an issue with getting rid of the plastic bags.

    I DO have an issue with being taxed on grocery bags by our City (or anyone).

    Just outlaw plastic grocery bags and be done with it.

  • Nancy Folsom August 17, 2008 (9:09 am)

    Big Red – the anti-tax site isn’t arguing against people bringing a bag. So your response is, intentional or not, a strawman.

  • Jason August 17, 2008 (9:27 am)

    I used my new cloth grocery bags for the first time yesterday at the Westwood QFC. It’s not that hard people!

  • Nancy Folsom August 17, 2008 (9:59 am)

    Jason, did you actually read the comments by those of us opposed to the tax? We are opposed to the tax. Not to using reusable bags. Oh, and BTW? I’ve been using them (when I remember, curse my lousy memory) for 2 years, and yet I feel I got a late start.

  • Alki August 17, 2008 (10:58 am)

    Love the 7-Eleven comment. ;)

  • charlabob August 17, 2008 (11:18 am)

    I saw the guy outside metropolitan yesterday — I was appalled at the number of people who signed. Sitting in the car, waiting for the bob, all but two people signed. (He was very agressive–another hallmark of the paid gatherer.) I also noticed he was sitting on a stool, provided by metro. My guess is a stool would not be provided for pro-tax petitioners

    I also was appalled at the number of people coming out with plastic bags. Is this a protest? Whatever it is, it demonstrates the fact that voluntarism doesn’t work for this issue.

    I’m not going to argue specifics with the “antitaxers” — Obviously, I support the tax. (Among other things, it will help those who forget to walk the 50 feet to their car and get the bags.)

  • charlabob August 17, 2008 (11:19 am)

    BTW, take your bags in target, bed bath and beyond, bartells — superfluous plastic bags don’t just apply to groceries. :-) It took me a while to catch on to this and I’ve actually never seen anyone else with reusable bags in any of those places.

  • T De August 17, 2008 (11:35 am)

    If you think this measure is not a good start, then I’d like to hear what you would do to make a good start, if you were in office – unless you think the status quo is good enough. More ideas; less whining and complaining.

  • Danno August 17, 2008 (11:36 am)


    I think the crowds demonstrate just how many people think the bag tax is a bad idea. Really, paid gatherers or not most people will stand in line to sign it, yours truly included.
    A real demonstration of how far removed the mayor and city council are from any sense of who they represent.

  • ikahana August 17, 2008 (11:56 am)

    I applaud Cool Moms for this action. The amount of time and emergy and MONEY that will be spent so that people can avoid paying for a grocery bag is ridiculous.

    Against the “tax” (and I certainly do take exception to it being pegged as a “tax”), bring a bag. Don’t want your restaurant bill to be taxed – eat at home. Don’t want your clothes to be taxed – sew your own.

    There is not a whole lot of good out of treating plastic and paper bags as something of which there is an endless and totally without consequences option. If we have to charge folks for using a bag from the store – that seems a very minor thing to do.

  • Nancy Folsom August 17, 2008 (1:11 pm)

    Ikahana – Thanks for pointing out the error. It is indeed a fee and not a tax–though I don’t see you were offended by it instead of chalking it up to a misuse of terms. More presuming the worst of those who disagree. Also, it doesn’t make a difference to me whether we call it a tax or a fee.

    I’ve written my arguments against the fee–relating my arguments to those for the fee. Perhaps you would do us the favor of sharing with us your reasoning for the fee, taking into account the arguments against?

  • Elikapeka August 17, 2008 (1:13 pm)

    This really shouldn’t be that big of an issue. I’m against the bag tax. I don’t buy garbage bags. I use the ones I get from the store. I also use them for pet waste, to hold wet bathing suits or muddy shoes or anything else that I want to keep separated. And the ones I don’t re-use are recycled. I guess that’s the one thing that surprises me – the bags can by recycled, folks, so what’s the big deal? I often use my cloth bags, but now I’ll be buying plastic trash bags, so the net change in usage for me – and I suspect a lot of people – will be zero, zilch, nada.

    All this fuss over bags and bonfires and closing streets by our mayor and council when the cement plant is throwing off noxious fumes, the viaduct still doesn’t have a solution, and neighborhoods are being ruined by poorly planned developments just irritates me. There are more important things they should be focusing on.

    I suspect that for many, the push-back against the bag tax is just that it was the tipping point with a city government that seems less and less responsive and shows no understanding of the current economic situation. Home prices are down, property taxes go up. Garbage and water and utilities increase. I think the attitude is just “enough already!!!”

  • chas redmond August 17, 2008 (1:16 pm)

    7-11 may be concerned about all the single malt can paper bags they use. Think about it – how many times have you seen someone leave a Quickie Mart (aka 7-11 and/or Circle K) with a very small paper sack. That ties in with the state’s repressive liquor laws. I mean, really! A fence in a bar to keep the toddlers from reaching up for a brew? This state’s got a lot of practical matters to attend to and the city’s actually got a lot more green problems than simple bags. How about making all city vehicles electric and banning gasoline-powered mowers, back-hoes, leaf blowers. Or, how about making Metro buy electric buses and electrifying the rest of the county. Diesel engines have no catalytic converter and spew particulate matter along with SOx and NOx and CO into the atmosphere. And we want MORE buses?

  • Nancy Folsom August 17, 2008 (2:55 pm)

    7-11, nor any business, is concerned about paper. Paper isn’t subject to this fee. (One of the reasons I’m opposed to it.) I suspect a lot people may not realize that.

  • Nancy Folsom August 17, 2008 (3:06 pm)

    Elikapeka, I didn’t much care at first. I thought the fee was bad law, but I didn’t get my shorts in a bunch until reading so many comments that opponents are dumb, selfish, lazy, or just the industry hacks. I also get tired of us always resorting to hitting the donkey with sticks before enticing it with carrots. It’s so…puritanical.

  • JumboJim August 17, 2008 (3:30 pm)

    This whole thing is ridiculous. If you do use the canvas bags as so many of you claim you do then you aren’t taxed on anything. How tough ito figure out is that????? Really, talking about straw men – I think the whole tax thing is a bunch of bull for those of you who claim to already use bags but still resist this change.

  • Alcina August 17, 2008 (3:33 pm)

    WSB, can you ask the White Center and West Seattle Food Banks what impact this bag fee will have on them? I know food banks often rely on donated paper and plastic (recycled) bags for their clients to take home food in. I’m aware the City of Seattle plans on providing every household in Seattle with a reusable bag, but one bag might not be enough for clients of food banks and some clients of food banks are homeless so it could be rather difficult for the City of Seattle to find them to provide them with a reusable bag.

    Obviously, if people need to go to a food bank for food, they probably don’t have enough disposable income to go out and buy a set reusable bags.

  • GB August 17, 2008 (3:34 pm)

    I agree with Elikapeka…I’ll have to buy plastic bags, so it will be a wash. And..I also find it annoying the city is focusing on this rather than the viaduct and other issues. If the viaduct collapses some will be dead, but green. BTW I’ve taken my own bags to the grocery store and Target etc for years.

  • WSB August 17, 2008 (3:35 pm)

    alcina, I believe I’ve read that somewhere and will research – original inquiries too. Thanks for raising the question. – TR

  • lorax August 17, 2008 (4:51 pm)

    Nancy, you’ve got some bad information. Paper bags are subject to the fee:

  • Nancy Folsom August 17, 2008 (4:58 pm)

    JumboJim – My first reply was snarky, I must admit, but that’s not the tone I wish we could adopt. It’s tough though when people keep attacking my character instead of the content of my argument.

    I’ve invited other critics elsewhere in these comments to read the basis for my opinion, and address the facts I present. If after doing that you feel my conclusion is in error, please feel free to point out my errors. If you don’t see any errors but still disagree with me, perhaps you’d be willing to reconsider whether I am simply an idiot because I disagree with you.

    I think this matters. People have been dying and being hurt because of small disagreements that get out of hand. Maybe we can start a trend of learning to disagree intelligently instead of violently or insultingly.

  • Nancy Folsom August 17, 2008 (5:12 pm)

    Lorax – Thanks! Your citation got me to dig deeper into the actual bill, since I hadn’t gotten that on my reading of the law. It _does_ mention paper sacks. The text of the law is here:, btw.

    That is about 25% of my opinion, which is significant. I still have other reasons for disagreeing with the fee, but I am glad to have better facts. Thanks again.

  • brandon August 17, 2008 (6:01 pm)

    The City just ate five million dollars for self cleaning toilets that were a joke.

    A parent just buried her 16 year old African American son who was shot in the stomach on Rainer Avenue last week for no apparent reason.

    Yes, we need this bag tax/fee/extortion much more than the other pressing issues in this city, because there just isn’t anything else important than saving some plastic.

  • CDSouth August 17, 2008 (6:04 pm)

    We saw a paid signature gatherer outside Target today.

    As a woman was about to sign, my husband stepped up to her and told her that the supporters of the petition were NOT a neighborhood organization, but were instead industry folk. She actually READ the petition, then put her pen down.


  • Danno August 17, 2008 (9:46 pm)

    Oh great CDSouth, intimidate people, that really makws you right, NOT. No matter the huge majority of people will sign anyway and then vote against Captain Planet and the City Clownci’s MONEY GRAB.

  • Cynthia August 17, 2008 (10:00 pm)

    Alcina, CoolMom’s members are collecting reuseable shopping bags to donate to our local food bank.

    I am concerned with the number of people who claim to use reusable bags but seem to say in the “same breath so to speak” that they use the disposable bags for trash and will now have to buy trash bags. That doesn’t calculate to me and it makes me wonder how much trash they’re producing.

    The goal here is to REDUCE waste. It’s a baby step. You don’t feed a newborn a t-bone steak (no offense to vegetarians) you start with milk.

    It’s about personal accountability. Why should the next generation have to clean up our mess when we know better. It’s one thing for my generation to clean up my parent’s and grandparents mess of the planet. At least they operated mostly in ignorance.

    When you know better you should do better and we do know better!

  • CDSouth August 17, 2008 (10:02 pm)

    did I say “intimidate”???!?!?!

    um, no…
    all we did was provide some information – – information which existed on the petition, which this woman wasn’t going to take the time to read, until we asked her to…

    Since when is providing an alternative viewpoint “intimidating”?

  • Elikapeka August 17, 2008 (10:39 pm)

    Well, Cynthia, since you’re wondering about how much trash I produce, and can’t reconcile how I can possibly say I use reusable bags and then use plastic ones, here’s your answer –

    We fill less than one can a week in our househould. If I got plastic bags every time I shopped, I’d have more than I need. When I need only a few items, I take my cloth bags, and if it’s a big trip, I get the plastic ones.

    So there you have it – this has gotten beyond silly.

  • Nancy Folsom August 18, 2008 (7:54 am)

    CDSouth- Admirable goal. People should, of course, read petitions before they sign them. Any petition. I trust you are as diligent about advising potential signers of petitions you support, too.

    Of course, another alternative is to butt out of another adult’s business, but that’s not really an option these days, is it?

  • GretchenF August 18, 2008 (8:11 am)

    I oppose the bag tax/fee for a number of reasons. I am really tired of Nanny Nickels and his henchmen & women on the city council continually legislating behavior. I would support banning the plastic bags outright since they are an environmental blight-loose and flying around everywhere in the landscape. As for paper, their creation may be costly in many ways, but they do break down. It is not difficult to recycle grocery bags or to bring your own. I have done this for 10 years. It just irritates to have one more user fee shoved down my throat. Further, this fee is a double charge. The bag your groceries are put into are already figured into the cost of the groceries and other goods you purchase. Retailers are now forced to deal with more recordkeeping, accounting, and remittance. Perhaps attention to more serious problems like infrastructure maintenance (public safety, parks & roads) would be a better use of mayoral and council time.

  • Nancy Folsom August 18, 2008 (8:23 am)

    Cynthia, No one here is saying the goal is bad. Nobody so far has advocated using more bags, or failing to address environmental issues. We are disagreeing about one single example of the means–imposing a bag fee.

    You are not alone in seeming to express a belief I’m not sure you intend. I don’t mean to pick on you, I genuinely want to check my impression with you to see if it’s correct or not. (I seek anyone’s opinion, of course.)

    Do you believe that if I don’t agree that the bag fee is a good thing, I’m uncaring about the environment or the future of your children?

  • Katie McA August 18, 2008 (10:14 am)

    I love how everyone against this the bag fee is calling it a tax. Last time I checked, paying taxes wasn’t elective or easily avoidable. This IS easily avoidable- bring your own bag and there will be no “taxation.”

    I do agree that our council should have been dealing with far more pressing concerns, but now all the people complaining about this could be dealing with more pressing concerns as well– how about petitioning the council about something useful (such as the infrastructure maintenance the poster above brought up) instead of dragging out this ridiculous debate?

  • DLink August 20, 2008 (10:46 pm)

    Ahhh, meaningful discourse. :-)

    The worldly wise understand that it is the “little things” in life that count the most. Because, the biggest ventures rely on the smallest component to succeed. aka Build the Titanic and use poor quality rivets… You get the idea.

    Aldi’s here in GA swaps a per bag cost onto SAVINGS for their customer, and that is the key. Their costs go down and it is reflected in the price of the goods. If it is NOT reflected in the price of the goods, the business model would fail for the consumer. So, I suppose, the real question is: Who is getting the savings for the conserving… as it always is. Here in GA it is a very successful business model.

    Pops has 4 milk crates in the trunk that suffice as a filing cabinet-carrying case for all things edible and he’s VERY happy with the low prices. Always remember, it is always the smallest gestures in life which can go the furthest to a full and satisfying life.

Sorry, comment time is over.