SNOHOMISH — Shoppers flock to First Street each holiday season to stroll through lights and peek into window displays, and warm up inside coffee shops and buy gifts.
Businesses won’t be able to hand out plastic bags with those purchases after next season.
The Snohomish City Council on Tuesday voted, with one member opposed, to ban plastic bags at registers. The law goes into effect on Jan. 1. After that, people have to buy paper bags for 10 cents each or bring their own. Those who receive food assistance won’t have to pay the fee.
The city wants retailers to have enough time to use up their plastic surplus, said Wendy Poischbeg, the city’s economic development director.
There will be a soft launch starting in October. It coincides with the re-opening of the Fred Meyer stire on Bickford Avenue, after renovations. The store plans to hand out reusable bags during that time.
“While we have all these shoppers, let’s get them on board to bring their own bags before the holidays,” Poischbeg said.
The new rule only applies to bags given at the point of sale. Rolls of plastic bags will remain in the meat, produce and bulk departments, and the usual film can still protect dry cleaning and newspapers. Those who don’t comply could be fined up to $250.
Karen Gahm has been working with a group called Green Snohomish for about a year to reduce plastic use in the city. She couldn’t make it to last week’s council meeting.
Gahm wasn’t surprised to hear the news.
“A year ago, I would have been,” she said. “But this council has gotten a tremendous amount of education and took it to heart.”
Snohomish joins dozens of others in the state. Edmonds was the first place in Washington to enact this kind of law, about a decade ago. Last month the city also banned single-use, non-compostable food containers. Everett banned plastic bags in December.
Lawmakers have drafted a plan to get rid of the sacks across the state.
In that case, every jurisdiction would follow the same rules.