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UPDATE | Plastic bags banned on Bainbridge Island

With overwhelming public support it seems banning plastic bags on the island was, well, in the bag.

Before the approval of the plastic bag ban Wednesday evening, Bainbridge Island City Councilwoman Kirsten Hytopoulos said she was uncertain how her colleagues would vote.

But Hytopoulos noted that islanders clearly support the new regulations, which she said were a small step the city could take to help Puget Sound.

Hytopoulos has championed the effort to ban the bags since January. She had previously promoted an island bag ban throughout 2011, but wasn’t able to momentum for the initiative until this year.

Hytopoulos needn’t have worried. The council supported the ban plastic bags by a unanimous vote.

The island is now counted among other Washington cities that have banned the bags, including Bellingham, Edmonds, Mukilteo and Seattle.

Before the council vote, the chamber was filled with advocates for the ban, 13 of whom voiced their support for the measure. From a 14-year-old freshman at Bainbridge High School, to Tony D’Onofrio, sustainability coordinator at Town & Country, islanders stressed that plastic bags are a small part of a larger problem, yet carry a significant environmental impact.

Some noted the unique threat posed to the waters of Puget Sound as the plastic bags break apart and absorb toxins before entering the food chain.

“There’s been a lot of talk that this bag ban is not important because there isn’t much litter,” said Bob Bosserman as he presented 64 photographs of plastic bags littered across island streets.

“If you have plastic bags, you have plastic bag litter,” he said.

“It seems profoundly hypocritical for those of us who talk about the beauty of this area not to take steps to protect it,” added Erika Shriner.

Only one dissenting voice came forward, urging a public vote.

The call for an election was an idea that surfaced this week, but some on the council rejected the suggestion due to its cost.

Council members said the ban was a first step and hoped more could be done in the future to help the environment.

“I hope as a result of this the use of paper bags will go down as well, because they also have a disastrous effect on the environment,” said Councilman Steve Bonkowski.

Councilwoman Sarah Blossom said she initially wasn’t going to vote for the ban, but she changed her mind after members of the community came forward and urged her to support it.

The ban will take effect on Nov. 1 to give time for retailers to adjust to a plastic bag-free island.

A 5-cent pass through charge will be applied to paper bags to help offset retailers’ cost of using paper bags over plastic.

“The average plastic bag is about 2 cents,” D’Onofrio said, drawing from his experience working for Town & Country. “The average cost of a (paper) bag is 7 cents, so if you take into account the pass through charge, you are back to

2 cents again.”

The plastic bags provided by many of the boutique and specialty stores on the island, which are thicker, are not included in the ban.

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