Details of Port Townsend plastic bag ban worked out
By Charlie Bermant
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The City Council will consider the ban at 6:30 p.m. Monday in council chambers at City Hall, 540 Water St.
On June 4, the council discussed the proposed bill during a first reading and told the special-projects committee to provide more information about such topics as timing, exemptions and penalties for noncompliance.
That committee — consisting of council members Michelle Sandoval, Bob Gray and Mark Welch — met Tuesday and decided it will recommend to the City Council that the ban go into effect by year's end, in time for the holiday season.
The measure would ban single-use plastic bags for retail uses — except those used for newspapers, dry cleaning and produce — and would require the use of paper bags or reusable bags instead.
Under the measure, consumers who are given paper bags will pay 5 cents per bag, an amount that would be added to their bill.
Stores would collect the fees and use the money to offset the cost of providing the paper bags.
There would be no city involvement in the collection of the fees.
Stores would be required to collect the fee for each bag distributed, and no store would be able to waive the fee. This, Sandoval said, would “maintain an even playing field.” Consumers with EBC cards would be exempt from paying the bag charge.
Paper bags smaller than a usual grocery bag also would be exempt from the charge.
The committee decided not to exempt wholesale transactions or farmers market sales, an action that Will O'Donnell, Jefferson County Farmers Market director and market manager, said he did not oppose.
While implementing a payment structure for the use of paper bags, the city would encourage shoppers to acquire reusable bags, perhaps distributing some free of charge.
Penalties would not be imposed on merchants violating the ban unless they are repeat offenders who have made no effort to follow the law, the committee decided.
The committee also decided that if the measure is approved, the city should begin a campaign to inform the public about the ban and work with merchants toward its implementation.
Since June 4, City Attorney John Watts has contacted city representatives of Bellingham, Seattle and Bainbridge Island, where plastic-bag bans have been implemented.
Information gathered was used to develop the Port Townsend proposal, specifically for the exemption process.
One provision of the proposed ordinance would allow stores that have purchased plastic bags to use them until that stock is gone.
The committee determined there would be no way to determine whether a store would stockpile plastic bags in advance of the ban.
“We can't control that,” Sandoval said.
“But if a merchant is using plastic bags several months after the ban goes into effect, their customers will ask them why.”
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at email@example.com.
Last modified: June 28. 2012 6:21AM