Port Angeles plastic bag law goes into effect Monday

PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles shoppers likely will notice a change at the checkout this week.

Merchants will be required to charge at least a nickel for any bag provided at a checkout when the city’s Bring Your Own Bag law takes effect in Port Angeles on Monday.

The Port Angeles ordinance, which the City Council approved by 4-3 vote in April, prohibits grocery, retail and convenience stores from providing thin-film plastic carry-out bags at the point of sale in the city limits.

Reusable bags, recycled paper bags and plastic bags that are more than 2.25 thousandths of an inch thick can be provided for a minimum charge of 5 cents per bag. The fee will be kept by the retailer.

The goal of the ordinance is to reduce the amount of thin-film plastic that litters the city, pollutes the marine environment and jams machinery at plastic recycling facilities, proponents said.

“It’s about encouraging people to bring their own bag and decreasing the amount of waste material that we produce through our behaviour,” said Port Angeles City Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin, who drafted the ordinance.

More than a dozen Western Washington cities, including Port Townsend, have adopted Bring Your Own Bag laws. Country Aire Natural Foods on First Street in Port Angeles has already instituted a policy of not providing bags without a fee.

Clallam County commissioners discussed establishing similar restrictions for the unincorporated area but delayed action at their meeting Monday after Commissioner Mark Ozias wanted to proceed and Commissioner Bill Peach did not.

Commissioner Randy Johnson said he was undecided and would explore the issue in the coming weeks.

Ozias said the board will discuss the issue again.

Federal officials in Chile recently banned merchants from using plastic bags to protect that country’s 4,000-mile coastline, The New York Times reported June 1.

“It’s been proven in other places,” Schromen-Wawrin said in a Friday interview.

The Port Angeles ordinance will not affect the small plastic bags available in the produce section or meat aisle. It only affects carry-out bags.

Restaurants and delis can still provide thin-film plastic bags for takeout food to safeguard public health, city officials said.

Customers on low-income food programs are exempt from the 5-cent fee.

Stores can apply for an exemption to the law if they can show it would cause an undue hardship.

Voting in favor of the Port Angeles plastic bag ordinance were Schromen-Wawrin, Mike French, Mayor Sissi Bruch and Deputy Mayor Kate Dexter.

Council members Cherie Kidd, Jim Moran and Michael Merideth voted no. Merideth said he supported a plastic bag ban but was opposed to the mandatory charge.

A list of frequently asked questions about the city’s Bring Your Own Bag law is available at www.tinyurl.com/PDN-bagFAQs.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

Senior staff writer Paul Gottlieb contributed to this report.

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