New Survey: Plastic Bag Bans Big Success

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Robb Krehbiel

Other Cities Provide Insight to What Thurston Can Expect with Own Ban

Environment Washington

Olympia – A new survey of consumers and business in Seattle and Bellingham shows widespread support of the plastic bag ban adopted in 2012. The survey was conducted by Environment Washington Research & Policy Center, a statewide citizen-based advocacy organization that has supported bag bans across the state. As Thurston County considers its own ban on plastic bags, this report offers insight as to what we can expect.

Major findings contained in the new report, Cutting Down on Plastic: Bag Bans Prove Popular and Successful including:

  • Over half of respondents in both Bellingham and Seattle said the bag ban has prompted them to bring their own bag to the store more often. Today, two-thirds of shoppers in these cities bring their bags most or all of the time.
  • The vast majority of shoppers said they agreed with the bag ban, most of whom said it was good for the environment.
  • 76% of Seattle businesses and 85% of Bellingham businesses saw an increase in reusable bag usage after the bag ban. The increase was most significant in grocer stores where over 95% of employees surveyed said they have seen an increase in people bringing their own bags.

“People in Washington realize that our actions have big impacts on the wildlife in Puget Sound,” said Robb Krehbiel, Program Associate for Environment Washington. “No one can forget the beached gray whale found in West Seattle with 20 plastic bags in its stomach. By bringing your own bag to the store, we can ensure this never happens again.”

With rising concern about the impact that plastic bags have on wildlife, citizens in Thurston County have begun urging our elected officials to take action similar to Seattle and Bellingham. Thurston County Solid Waste has spent the past year working with the community and researching what has worked in other jurisdictions throughout the US to reduce the use of plastic bags. The Thurston County Solid Waste Advisory Committee recommended that Thurston County and the cities within adopt a ban on plastic bags with a fee on paper bags as the only real effective and cost effective method that will make a difference. 

 “It has been shown over and over that education and increased bag recycling opportunities do not make a significant impact,” said Terri Thomas, Thurston County Solid Waste Reduction Coordinator.  “If jurisdictions truly want to reduce the use, bans are about the only way that is going to happen”. Should Thurston County ban plastic bags it would be the first Washington County to do so.

As Thurston County prepares for a bag ban, some businesses have already started eliminating plastic bags from their stores. “At Vivala we strive to be part of the green economy by incorporating sustainable principles into every business decision,” said Cheryl Selby, owner of Vivala in Olympia. “That’s why at we only offer shopping bags made from high content post consumer waste paper.  We’ve gone even further and now ask every customer if they want a bag or would rather use their own. It’s encouraging to see more and more customers bring their own reusable shopping bags into our store! I think Thurston County is ready to adapt to a bag ban.”

Already, the effort to ban plastic bags is underway in the county. Last Tuesday, the Tumwater City Council unanimously supported a ban on plastic bags for Thurston county. “The Tumwater City Council voiced strong support for a plastic bag ban at a recent work session,” said Tumwater Mayor, Pete Kmet. “We look forward to collaborating with the Thurston County Health Department, our neighboring jurisdictions, and various interest groups to develop an ordinance that we can all live with.” Tumwater is the first city in Thurston County to public support the proposed Thurston County bag ban. Other cities will be discussing the measure in the coming weeks.

Currently 7 cities in Washington have banned plastic bags. Other cities, such as Shoreline and Anacortes are currently discussing banning plastic bags.

 Advocates hope these results continue to fuel the campaign to ban plastic bags. “2012 was a big year for us,” said Krehbiel, “and we want 2013 to be just as big. Right now, other cities across the state are actively pursuing bag bans, and the state is gearing up to push a statewide ban on plastic bags. There’s still a lot more to be done.”