The Olympia City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to support a proposed Thurston County ban on plastic bags at grocery stores and a small fee on paper bags.
The council acted after hearing a spate of reasons for the ban from Ron Jones of the citys Public Works Department. Only 5-9 percent of residents recycle the bags, he said, adding that they cannot be recycled at the curb, like most other recyclables. Many end up in curbside recycling anyway, so they get tangled up in the recycling machinery.
Jones also concluded that voluntary measures for recycling plastic bags arent working and that bags become litter and affect the environment.
Theyre made from nonrenewable resources, he said.
We cant recycle them at the curb. Thats kind of a big issue.
Thurston Countys solid-waste advisory committee, which includes representatives of all the countys cities, voted unanimously in November to support a ban, said Councilman Nathaniel Jones.
Jones, a member of that committee, said what we found was a very compelling case that we need to change business as usual.
He said Thurston County residents go through about 90 million bags per year and that they gum up equipment at a cost of thousands of dollars a year.
Essentially, they contaminate our recycling process, Jones said.
Seven cities in the state already ban plastic bags: Bainbridge Island, Bellingham, Edmonds, Issaquah, Mukilteo, Port Townsend and Seattle. Nathaniel Jones said Thurston Countys proposed ban is consistent with those bans.
A county survey found that 49 percent of respondents favored a ban. But Olympia Councilwoman Karen Rogers questioned whether those respondents were chosen at random or selfreported their answers. Jones said people selfreported .
He said fees on paper bags have ranged from five to 10 cents per bag in areas that have adopted bag bans. He said the Northwest Grocers Association supports such a ban if a small fee is applied to paper bags. But a group of independent grocers, the Northwest Food Association, has some concerns, he said.
Rogers said she wanted to make sure a ban didnt hurt small businesses.
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@theolympian. com @mattbatcheldor