The Tenino City Council continues to struggle with the issue of banning plastic grocery bags, even after such a ban has been approved by Thurston County commissioners and the Tumwater City Council.
City council members last week said they see pros and cons to banning the bags, but will not reach a decision until they have additional public input.
The city’s ban would, most likely, resemble the county’s new regulations.
Thurston County’s ordinance, which goes into effect July 1, 2014, bans thin-film plastic grocery bags. The ban does not include plastic bags for prepared take-out food, dry cleaning, newspapers or garbage bags sold in packages.
The new ordinance places a fee on paper bags in order to help stores offset the higher costs of providing those bags, according to Thurston County.
Residents using food-assistance programs will not pay for paper bags.
At last week’s Tenino City Council meeting, Councilman Dave Watterson said he was in favor of the ban – until he started to delve into the issue.
“I’m probably one of the greener people in here. I try to do environmentally friendly things,” Watterson said. “But when you start doing some research – and I tried to look at a lot of sources, from tree-huggers to the plastic bag industry – from what I’m reading, paper bags are as bad or worse than plastic bags.”
“I’ve completely changed my mind on the whole plastic bag thing,” he said. “It sounds like a great thing, but the answer isn’t going to paper. People aren’t getting the whole story on what’s going on here.”
Reusable bags aren’t a great option either, he said. To see any environmental benefit, Watterson said a reusable bag must be used more than 180 times.
“It’s not as simple as what they show,” he said. “The alternatives are worse.”
In a presentation to the City Council in March, Terri Thomas, Thurston County’s waste reduction supervisor, explained that the proposed bag ban was intended to create a “sustainable solution” to the county’s use of 90 million plastic bags a year.
“Unfortunately, sometimes it takes that financial incentive to move the community forward,” she said.
At last week’s meeting, the Tenino City Council unanimously approved a recommendation to pursue the ban, as put forth by Thurston County Solid Waste, a step that allowed the city to gather more information.
On Tuesday, the City Council agreed to explore options to make information available to the public and to solicit public input.