Lacey City Council votes to ban plastic bags

The city of Lacey finally adopted its plastic bag ban ordinance Thursday night, the last major jurisdiction in the county to move forward with an ordinance that bans single-use, lightweight plastic bags typically found at grocery stores.

The council voted 4-3 to pass the ordinance; the ordinance is set to take effect July 1.

Voting in favor were Mayor Andy Ryder, Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt and council members Jeff Gadman and Michael Steadman. Voting against were council members Lenny Greenstein, Jason Hearn and Virgil Clarkson.

Greenstein spoke out strongly against the ordinance, echoing earlier comments that it still needs to go to a vote of the people. “Passing this is a huge mistake,” he said.

Several area residents also spoke out against the ordinance, but councilman Gadman said the environmental impact of single-use plastic bags is very real.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who thinks plastic is good for the environment,” he said. “I’m in favor of this.”

Lacey joins Olympia, Tumwater and unincorporated Thurston County as communities to approve the ordinance. Yelm, Tenino, Rainier and Bucoda have yet to take action, the smaller communities still in a “see how it goes” mode before they take action, said Terri Thomas, waste reduction supervisor for the county.

Following the July 1 implementation date, the county plans to produce a six-month study of how the ordinance is working and show those results to those still-undecided communities. That might lead them to take that next step, she said.

The ordinance process began two years ago when the Thurston County Solid Waste Advisory Committee, which is made up of elected officials from each jurisdiction, decided to pursue an effort to reduce thin-filmed plastic.

Since June 2012, the subject of single-use plastic bags had come before the Lacey City Council or a related committee seven times before the council voted last month to bring the ordinance before the council Thursday night.

There also was a public outreach campaign, including the mailing of 15,000 informational fliers and comment cards to residents in their city utility bills.

Replies showed 51.49 percent supported the ban, followed by 44.4 percent opposed and 4.08 percent undecided. Those in favor said it was the right thing to do for the environment, while those opposed said single-use bags are not single-use at all, but are recycled.

Thomas emphasized that the ordinance applies to those grocery store bags with pre-made handholds, sometimes referred to as “T-shirt” bags. It does not apply to plastic bags for produce or meat, and food banks are exempt from the rule, she said.

More outreach is planned by the county, including a series of meetings for business owners. A schedule can be found at the Thurston County Solid Waste website at co.thurston.wa.us/solidwaste/.