Washington state could be one step closer to banning non-compostable carryout bags if legislators pass Senate Bill 5253.
The bill would prohibit retail store owners from providing carryout bags to consumers unless the bag is a compostable plastic carryout bag, a recyclable paper carryout bag or a reusable carryout bag.
Bellingham banned non-compostable carryout bags in August 2012, and retail stores now charge customers 5 cents per recyclable paper bag. Customers can avoid the extra charge by bringing their own reusable bags or choosing not to use a bag at all.
The ban is in effect in retail stores throughout Bellingham, including in grocery stores, clothing stores and other places of business that sell goods or commodities directly to consumers, according to the city of Bellingham ordinance.
If retail owners violate the terms of the Senate bill by either giving or selling non-compostable bags to customers, they are subject to a Class 1 civil infraction with a fine of up to $250, according to the Senate bill. The ordinance does not apply to non-compostable bags in a retailer’s existing inventory as of Aug. 1, 2013.
Fred Meyer stores in Bellingham have adjusted easily to the ban, said Melinda Merrill, director of public affairs for Fred Meyer stores. If the ban becomes statewide, she is confident the grocery store chain will be comfortable with the legislation.
“Customers don’t seem to have a problem with it,” Merrill said about the Bellingham bag ban. “Everyone knew it was coming.”
Western sophomore Jennifer Calderbank is used to the bag ban in Bellingham, and said it is not hard to bring reusable bags on every grocery store trip. Even when she forgets to bring her reusable bags, the extra five-cent charge per bag does not bother her, she said.
“If I was buying a product and it was five cents more, that wouldn’t stop me from buying it,” Calderbank said. “[The ban] is really good for the environment, and it’s not a hard thing for people to deal with.”
Western freshman Nathan Scroger works at a retail store in the Bellis Fair Mall and, though he supports the bag ban, customers have differing opinions, he said.
“[Some customers] bought 8 to 10 pairs of shoes and then I had to charge them 15 cents for bags,” Scroger said. “Because they had already paid money for the shoes, they didn’t think they needed to pay money for the bags.”