Photo by Trosmisiek/Wikimedia

Photo by Trosmisiek/Wikimedia

Port Angeles prepares for new plastic bag law

More than a dozen cities in Western Washington, including Port Townsend, have enacted similar laws.

PORT ANGELES — City officials say they are helping businesses prepare for the “Bring Your Own Bag” law, in which thin plastic carry-out bags will be banned at Port Angeles retail stores effective July 2.

Stores within the city will be required to charge at least a nickel for any bag provided at checkout beginning on that date.

Paper bags must be recyclable, and thin-film plastic bags common at grocery store checkout lines will be prohibited under a new ordinance that the City Council approved by 4-3 vote April 3.

To help stores make the transition, city staff drafted a list of frequently asked questions about the new initiative.

The City Council on Tuesday directed staff to distribute the FAQs along with a letter and flyer to the 1,900 commercial utility customers within the city.

“We want to make sure that people are capable of dealing with this change,” City Councilman Mike French said at the meeting.

“It is a big change, but I was very impressed with the frequently asked questions and the flyer as well. I thought that they were done extremely well.”

The goal of the plastic bag law is to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags to help reduce waste and protect the marine environment.

The ordinance was drafted by City Councilman Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin. It was largely based on Tacoma’s plastic bag law.

More than a dozen cities in Western Washington, including Port Townsend, have enacted similar laws.

Voting in favor of the Port Angeles ordinance April 3 were council members Schromen-Wawrin, French, Mayor Sissi Bruch and Deputy Mayor Kate Dexter.

Voting again the measure were council members Cherie Kidd, Jim Moran and Michael Merideth. Merideth said he supported a ban on plastic bags but was opposed to the 5-cent minimum charge.

The 5-cent fee will be kept by the retailer to cover the cost of providing recycled paper bags or more expensive reusable fabric bags. The law is meant to be an incentive for customers to bring their own bags to avoid the fee.

Plastic bags more than 2.25 mils — or thousandths of an inch — thick can be provided at checkout as long as the customer pays the fee.

Customers on low-income food programs are exempt from the charge. Retailers can apply for an exemption to the law if they can show it would cause an undue hardship.

Restaurants and delis can still provide thin-film plastic bags for takeout food to safeguard public health, according to the ordinance and FAQs.

“Boy, have we created a lot of confusion in Port Angeles,” Kidd said at the meeting.

“People don’t know what’s happening with the plastic bags. I get questions everywhere I go.”

Kidd questioned why the city didn’t follow Tacoma’s lead and provide a one-year grace period.

The original Port Angeles ordinance would have gone into effect 30 days after adoption. The council decided last month to allow a three-month grace period at French’s suggestion.

Kidd said the Port Angeles ordinance was “rushed” and would likely result in a “rough landing.”

“We don’t have a Department of Bags to contact everyone,” Kidd said.

“We have a couple of thousand retailers who are wondering what’s going on and when. And everywhere I go, I get questions.”

To help assuage the concerns of store owners and managers, the city assigned Solid Waste Collections Coordinator Bruce Dorcy to be the point of contact for the plastic bag law. He can be reached at 360-417-4876 or bdorcey@cityofpa.us.

Dorcy has a background in the grocery industry, City Manager Dan McKeen said.

“Since adoption, staff has received multiple questions concerning the ordinance, and we believe the best way to interpret the ordinance and answer the questions is to create and distribute a frequently asked questions sheet,” McKeen said.

“We also will be proving information on our city’s website [www.cityofpa.us] to help both the consumers and the retailers with this.”

Members of the Port Angeles Plastic Reduction Coalition and area youth implored the City Council to enact a plastic bag law late last year and earlier this year. The City Council held three public hearings on the proposal, with a solid majority of the testimony in support.

Moran polled his fellow council members Tuesday on whether they would consider a six-month delay to the implementation of the plastic bag law.

“I’m not making the motion, Madam Mayor,” Moran told Bruch. “I’m just asking for input from the rest of the council about what your feelings on that are.”

Dexter said a six-month delay likely would lead to confusion.

“I would second that about changing the date,” Bruch said.

“I would prefer not to do that, especially because I have not gotten any feedback that it’s been confusing.”

Bruch and other council members said the feedback they had received on the bag law had been overwhelmingly positive.

“I’m very open-minded that people have different feedback to provide,” French said. “But so far, the feedback that I’ve got has been exclusively positive.”

Despite her reservations about the ordinance, Kidd agreed that the FAQ sheet was “well done.”

“We’ll be mailing them out,” McKeen said. “I just want to make sure the council was onboard.”

________

This story first ran in the Peninsula Daily News. Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

More in Northwest

VoteWA is a $9.5 million program that came online last May and is meant to unify all 39 county voting systems in the state into a single entity. Courtesy image
WA’s new voting system concerns county elections officials

VoteWA has run into some problems in recent months as the Aug. 6 primary election draws closer.

Courtesy photo
King County Sheriff’s Office has been giving ICE unredacted information

Both the office and jail have supplied the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

‘Feedback loops’ of methane, CO2 echo environmental problem beyond Washington

University of Washington among researchers of climate change’s effects in global temperatures.

Tasting room proposal could redefine alcohol production in King County

Pilot program would benefit wineries, breweries and distilleries. Several farmers are concerned.

Climbers rescued after days on Rainier

Several rescue attempts went awry, thanks to bad weather and flying conditions.

Rick Steves to give $1 million yearly to stop climate change

“If we are in the travel business, we are contributing to the destruction of our environment,” he said.

Boeing says decision on new airplane will come this year

With the 737 Max crisis far from over, there was speculation that a 797 decision might be delayed.

King County Councilman Reagan Dunn sent a letter to the FBI asking for them to help investigate Allan Thomas (pictured), who is under investigation for stealing more than $400,000 of public funds and skirting election laws in an Enumclaw drainage district. Screenshot from King 5 report
King County Council requests report on special districts in wake of fraud allegations

Small, local special districts will face more scrutiny following Enumclaw drainage district case.

Cherry blossoms bloom in April at the Washington State Capitol. Photo by Emma Epperly, WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Legislature adjourns on time with new budget, more money for education

Total spending is $52.4 billion; includes levy lid lift for school districts and some tax increases.

Gov. Jay Inslee shakes hands with Dinah Griffey after signing Senate Bill 5649 on April 19. The law revises the statute of limitations for sex crimes. Photo by Emma Epperly, WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Hits and misses from Legislature’s 2019 session

New laws target vaccines, sex crimes and daylight savings; losers include sex ed and dwarf tossing bills.

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to protesting nurses on April 24 at the State Capitol Building in Olympia. Inslee indicated he would sign the bill for meal and rest breaks into law if it passes both chambers. Photo by Emma Epperly, WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Lawmakers approve ‘nursing bill’ for mandatory meal and rest breaks

Nurses show up in Olympia to support bill, protest Sen. Walsh’s remarks.

Colton Harris-Moore, known as the “Barefoot Bandit,” as seen on a GoFundMe page where he sought to raise $125,000 for flight training. (GoFundMe)
‘Barefoot Bandit’ asks judge to shorten his supervised release

Colton Harris-Moore says travel restrictions are holding back a lucrative public-speaking career.