The Tumwater City Council voted Tuesday to ban plastic grocery-style bags, becoming the first government in Thurston County to approve a ban that is under consideration countywide.
Starting July 1, the thin film-style plastic bags will be off-limits. Shoppers will either have to bring their own reusable bags to stores or pay 5 cents per paper bag — money that goes directly to stores to offset their cost.
Other plastic bags, such as the thin bags used for meat or produce, and thicker plastic shopping bags, are exempt from the ban. Newspaper bags, doggie bags and dry cleaning bags are exempt, as well as bags used for services to those with low incomes.
Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet said the reason his city adopted the ban first is mostly a matter of scheduling, but he’s proud of the distinction.
“I think we’re making the right move,” he said.
Tumwater adopted the language of a model ban developed by Thurston County, which might approve a bag ban as early as next week. The Thurston County Commission will conduct a public hearing on the issue Tuesday, and could take action afterward. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Thurston County Courthouse, 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW, Olympia.
Olympia also is expected to follow suit. City Manager Steve Hall will ask the City Council how to proceed at its next meeting Oct. 1, said city spokeswoman Cathie Butler. The council decided in January to recommend drafting a bag ban ordinance.
Lacey is still considering the issue, said Terri Thomas, Thurston County’s waste reduction supervisor. A majority of Lacey council members support putting a ban to a public vote, according to minutes from a March 28 meeting.
The county has been considering a bag ban for about two years because few people recycle the bags, which end up as litter, in a landfill or clogging recycling equipment, which costs thousands each year to fix.
Nationwide, less than 5 percent of people recycle plastic bags, Thomas said. Compounding the problem, recycling collector LeMay will not accept plastic film bags in Thurston County starting next month, saying there is no market for them.
Some supermarkets collect plastic bags for recycling, but it’s unclear how many of them get recycled.
Thomas said implementing the ban next July would allow the county to continue educating people about the issue. People can find more information at thurstonsolidwaste.org/plastics.mbatcheldor@ theolympian.com