Staff Presentation to Infrastructure, Planning and Sustainability Committee
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Tacoma Municipal Building North
733 Market Street
Staff will present a draft ordinance, implementation plans, and public comments on drafts to City Council's Infrastructure, Planning and Sustainability Committee beginning at 4:30pm. Public is Welcome.
View the draft ordinance and implementation plans.
View the results of the public and business surveys.
March 29, 2016
The City of Tacoma hosted the Disposable Shopping Bags Public Forum at the Main Branch of the Tacoma Public Library to gather feedback on the proposed shopping bag ordinance and implementation plans. About 60 members of the community attended the forum, and written and oral comments were broad in nature with equal numbers in favor and opposition.
February 24, 2016
Office of Environmental Policy and Sustainability staff presented the results of the public and business surveys to City Council's Infrastructure, Planning and Sustainability Committee (IPS). This presentation included the Sustainable Tacoma Commission recommendation to adopt an ordinance following the "Bellingham Model."
IPS asked staff to draft an ordinance following the Bellingham Model and continue to engage the public for feedback. Bellingham's ordinance bans disposable plastic shopping bags and charges a fee for paper shopping bags.
November 23, 2015 - January 15, 2016
Public and business surveys were available online. The public survey received 2,188 responses; the business survey received 84 responses.
Tacoma Considering Disposable Shopping Bag Restrictions
The Tacoma City Council may consider an ordinance on disposable shopping bags in 2016. The Office of Environmental Policy and Sustainability is conducting outreach and seeking feedback on this topic on behalf of the Council’s Infrastructure, Planning and Sustainability Committee.
The proposed ordinance would set restrictions on the use of carryout bags, including disposable or single-use plastic shopping bags (t-shirt bags) and disposable paper bags. These restrictions would apply to retail stores within Tacoma, but not to nonprofit charitable organizations. Placing restrictions on disposable shopping bags is intended to increase the use of reusable shopping bags while reducing resource use, litter and waste.
"One reusable shopping bag can replace between 57 and 315 disposable plastic bags in one year according to life-cycle analyses."
Why restrict disposable shopping bags?
What are other cities doing?
Fourteen communities in Washington State have placed restrictions on single-use plastic and paper bags.
Numerous communities around the nation and the world, beginning with Bangladesh in 2002, have restrictions on single-use shopping bags. Several models have been used to reduce dependency on single-use plastic and paper bags, each with their own advantages and limitations. For all models, paper bags must be at least 40 percent post-consumer recycled content and 100 percent recyclable.
Disposable bag regulations in other communities have shown the following:
Frequently Asked Questions
What is considered a disposable shopping bag?
Disposable shopping bags are those typically given out at check-out aisles and include both plastic bags (“t-shirt” bags) and paper bags. Disposable shopping bags do not include other paper or plastic bags such as deli and produce bags, advertising and promotional bags, pet waste bags, or yard waste bags.
Why might disposable bags be restricted?
Grocery stores and other retailers in the United States annually provide 38 billion single-use paper and plastic bags to their customers. While many of the bags do get recycled, many more are disposed of as trash and many find their way into creeks, rivers, oceans, and highways as litter. These bags consume many resources and pose environmental risks that could be avoided through the use of reusable bags.
What if I already reuse my shopping bags for pet waste or trash can liners?
Though reuse of disposable shopping bags is certainly better than immediate disposal, a potential restriction would be intended to increase reusable bag use and minimize paper and plastic bag waste and litter. Pet waste bags, trash can liners and other plastic bags will still be available for purchase at grocery and other stores in Tacoma.
Isn't recycling these bags good enough?
Many large stores offer plastic bag recycling, but recycling rates for these bags remain very low, less than 6 percent nationally.
Does Tacoma accept recycled plastic bags at the curbside and at the recycling center?
Yes. However, if plastic bags aren’t recycled properly (bundled into one bag and tied at the top) they can jam recycling equipment, causing costly shutdowns to machinery.
When would this take effect?
Disposable bag restrictions typically take effect three to twelve months after adoption of the ordinance. This will be influenced by feedback from community members. Many bag ban programs delay implementation for several months to allow retail stores to use their existing supply of disposable bags.
How might this affect low-income residents?
Low income citizens would likely be exempt from these restrictions. Most disposable shopping bag restriction models include exemptions for people receiving SNAP, WIC, TANF or FAP benefits. The City may also consider providing free reusable bags to low income individuals.
How would restrictions be enforced?
If action is taken, enforcement might include self-reporting, random inspections and/or complaint-based follow up, and penalties could include written warnings and fines.
If there is a fee, where will this money go?
Fees typically remain with the retailers, though in some cases all or part of the fee is given to a local environmental cleanup organization.