The biggest problem with thin-film plastic bags here in Thurston County is that there are too many of them. In addition to the known environmental problems these bags cause, they are expensive to manage in the solid waste stream, generating more than $35,000 per month in excess costs borne by the county Waste and Recover Center (WARC) and the county’s contractors.
The Thurston County Solid Waste Advisory Committee prepared an exceptionally thorough review and analysis of the problem of plastic bags, including specifics about costs in Thurston County.
The Tenino City Council has decided not to act to reduce use of thin-film plastic bags. Tumwater and Olympia have adopted the model plastic-bag ordinance, including a monetary incentive for customers to bring their own reusable bags: a 5-cent charge for a paper bag. Thurston County commissioners have enacted this ordinance for unincorporated Thurston County. The Lacey City Council has the ordinance under review.
Effective with fiscal year 2015, WARC should adopt a two-tier cost program. Jurisdictions that have adopted the plastic-bag ordinance would pay at the lower-tier cost. Jurisdictions that still allow retail distribution of thin-film plastic bags should pay a higher-tier cost that includes all of the marginal costs of managing thin-film bags in the solid waste stream.
Right now, every Thurston County resident pays the costs of managing thin-film plastic bags through the WARC. In the future, jurisdictions that exercise their choice to generate expensive garbage should fully fund the costs of that choice.