Council engages in next round of plastic ban discussion

The Bainbridge Island City Council will take on the next round of discussion surrounding the proposed plastic bag ban at its weekly meeting tonight.

Councilwoman Kirsten Hytopoulos began discussing the ban early this year and first introduced a draft of the ordinance on Feb. 16. Tonight will be its first reading. The agenda indicates that it will be scheduled for a final reading on March 28.

Since the issue was raised it has prompted public debate over the usefulness, or hazards, of the bags. Hytopoulos, however, has noted a number of letters voicing support of the ban.

"Bag litter generated by an island community has a much greater chance of ending up in local waters. Such bags are an increasing threat to the local wild and aquatic life that are such an integral part of the natural heritage and vitality of our region," said Tristin Brown, Conservation Committee Chairman for the Washington Chapter of the Sierra Club in a letter to the city.

"We are hopeful that Bainbridge Island will join four other Washington State municipalities, a growing number of U.S. towns and cities as well as several Asian, European and African countries which have adopted such bans," he said.

The environmental advocacy group Environment Washington has also been active raising awareness of the issue using the social networking site Facebook to encourage supporters to attend the council meeting.

Kristina Rosen earlier noted the environmental impacts of plastic within Puget Sound and cited the gray whale found on the shores of Seattle last year. It was discovered that the whale had consumed a number of plastic bags, among other litter.

“Whales, seals, salmon and birds can ingest the bags, choke on them, or be harmed by toxins,” Rosen said. “Nothing we use for a few minutes should end up in the belly of a whale.”

Rosen has previously been invited to speak to the council about the plastic bag issue.

Hytopoulos has said that she modeled the ban for Bainbridge Island after the one passed in Seattle. In its current draft, bags used for carrying purchased items that are 2.25 millimeters thick or less will be banned preventing their distribution at some retailers on the island such as Safeway, Town & Country Market and Rite Aid. Thicker and stronger plastic bags commonly provided by the many boutique stores on the island are not included in the ban.

The ordinance also states that retailers would be required to implement a “pass-through charge” of no more than 5 cents on the common 1/8-barrel size recyclable paper bags also used for carrying purchased items.

Customers on food assistance programs would not be required to pay the pass-through charge.

Representatives from Town & Country Market have previously stated that they would support a ban as long as a pass-through charge is included.

Currently the only option to dispose of plastic bags on the island is through the trash or at recycling bins in front of Safeway and the Town & Country Market.

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