PORT ANGELES — Paper or plastic? That largely depends on where you shop after some Port Angeles retailers received exemptions from the plastic bag ban.
Swain’s General Store and Saar’s Super Saver Foods have received one-year exemptions from the plastic bag ban that went into effect July 3.
Others include Jim’s Pharmacy and Necessities and Temptations, said Bruce Dorcy, solid waste collection coordinator for the city.
Sparket has been granted an exemption from the 5-cent charge because the store isn’t allowed to sell anything other than marijuana-related products, he said.
Shoppers at Safeway can purchase paper bags for a 5-cent charge and shoppers at Country Aire Natural Foods downtown have had the option of purchasing paper bags since before the ban was enacted.
Don Droz, a manager at Swain’s, said the store applied for the year-long exemption because the store had recently purchased about a year’s supply of bags.
The store also is not yet charging customers for bags.
“At this time, we will not be charging our customers for plastic bags being used,” a sign posted at the front of Swain’s says. “We do, however, support the idea of doing business in a way that does not impact our environment in a negative way.”
The sign encourages customers to use reusable bangs and fewer plastic bags.
“Together we can make a difference,” the sign says.
The ordinance that the Port Angeles City Council passed in April allows the city manager to grant businesses up to a one-year exemption from the ban if they can demonstrate an “undue hardship.”
Dorcy said most businesses that asked for an exemption said they needed time to use their inventory of plastic bags and needed time to change their point of sale system to include the required 5-cent charge.
“The one factor that will take the most time is the bag inventory,” he said. “While we are trying to eliminate them from the environment and recycling process, we’d rather use them than just throw them away.”
Stores can apply for an extension to the exemption if they can demonstrate continued undue hardship. Extensions may be granted for only intervals not exceeding one year.
The council voted 4-3 in April to approve a plastic bag policy that prohibits single-use plastic bags that are less than 2.25 thousandths of an inch and imposes a 5-cent minimum charge on any bag a retailer supplies to a customer at the point of sale.
Voting in support of the bag law were Mayor Sissi Bruch, Deputy Mayor Kate Dexter and councilmen Mike French and Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin.
Council members Cherie Kidd, Michael Merideth and Jim Moran voted no. Merideth said he supported a plastic bag ban but opposed the 5-cent charge.
Any person violating the law could face a $250 fine.
Saar’s Super Saver Foods, which recently opening in Port Angeles, also received an exemption, said the company’s general manager, Kyle Saar.
“It’s just to help us transition from having plastic bags to not having plastic bags,” he said. “It gives us some time to figure out how we’re going to make that transition.”
Saar said this is the first store in the company’s portfolio that has been impacted by a plastic bag ban. The Port Angeles store is one of nine in Western Washington.
“If customers are interested in not using our plastic bags, we do offer reusable bags that they can purchase and we do carry paper bags,” he said. “We’re more than happy to provide those for customers.”
Schromen-Wawrin said he is unaware of how many stores applied for and received the exemption and said he hasn’t heard much feedback yet on the plastic bag ban.
Schromen-Wawrin rewrote the draft of the ordinance after the city was presented with ideas for a plastic bag ban several months ago, he said.
What he saw during the process was a group of citizens who were vocal, which he felt helped move the ordinance forward.
“I’m glad that people organized on this and I hope they continue to push this agenda forward, because it’s important to address marine health and our ability to recycle,” he said.
He encourages citizens to organize and let the city council know about other issues that need to be addressed, he said.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].