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Stores in Edmonds ready for ban on plastic bags

On Friday, Edmonds will be the only city in the state to make plastic checkout bags illegal.

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By Oscar Halpert
Herald Writer
EDMONDS -- If you're shopping here Friday, don't expect the cashier to place your items in a plastic bag.
That would be illegal.
That's when the city's ban on plastic checkout bags goes into effect at retail outlets. Edmonds is the first and only Washington city to impose such a ban.
The law's goal is clear, advocates say: Encourage people to shop with their own, reusable, totes. Lightweight, plastic checkout bags may be convenient, they say, but their lightness means they're also more likely to end up littering streets and waterways.
Instead, the new law requires shoppers to leave the store with their goods in reuseable canvas, thicker plastic bags or recycled paper sacks.
"When you shop in Edmonds, try to remember to bring your own bag," said Steve Fisher, the city's recycling coordinator.
Not all plastic bags are banned.
Regulations approved by the City Council 5-1 last summer exempt plastic bags used to pack produce, meat or bulk food. And plastic bags used for takeout food cooked or prepared at restaurants also are exempt.
The city also started a public education campaign and is considering a ban on the use of plastic foam containers. The City Council is expected to discuss the issue this fall.
Businesses that violate the law face a $100 fine for the first offense and $250 for subsequent violations within two years. The city gave businesses a year to use up their plastic bag supply and prepare for the ban.
Business owners can ask for a one-year exemption, as long as they make the request within 30 days from Friday, the new law says. So far, the city's received one exemption request, said planner Jennifer Machuga, via e-mail.
Councilman Strom Peterson, a downtown business owner who pushed for the ban, said only a handful of business owners objected to it.
"The vast majority of businesses -- both locally owned and some of the bigger national stores -- were aware of the ordinance and had taken steps to implement it," Peterson said.
Last year, Seattle tried to encourage bag reuse by imposing a fee. That city's voters in August 2009 rejected a referendum that would have imposed a 20-cent per bag fee on both plastic and paper bags.
Some Edmonds stores, such as Petosa's Family Grocer, 550 Fifth Ave. S., have already eliminated the bags.
"We have had no complaints at all," owner Betty Jo Petosa said. Her store got rid of the lightweight, plastic checkout bags two years ago.
Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets, 9803 Edmonds Way, stopped using plastic checkout bags in October 2007, spokeswoman Diana Crane said.
"We actually announced our ban in August of that year, and it took six or seven weeks to change over," Crane said. "We wanted to use up the supply we had of plastic bags."
Both Top Food & Drug, 21900 Highway 99, and QFC, 22828 100th Ave. W, are ready for the ban.
"We'll make sure we have reuseable totes in the store," QFC spokeswoman Kristin Maas said.
Top Food & Drug ran out of plastic bags Wednesday, spokeswoman Becky Skaggs said.
"We're encouraging people to use reuseable totes," she said. The store also offers anti-bacterial tote bags for sale. The bags are treated with a product that controls harmful bacteria, mold, mildew and fungus, Skaggs said.

Oscar Halpert: 425-339-3429;
Story tags » EdmondsWaste

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