Monday, March 28, 2011

Locals Taking Action

Today, Bag It Bellingham gave a presentation to the City Council on the bag ordinance proposal. People from the community even showed up! Tonight, we have urged citizens to come and share their voice that they would like to see our City Council pass a bag reduction ordinance. The word is starting to spread and many people in our community are in support of this. Make your voice heard by writing to our City Councilmembers now. They need to hear from you:;;;;;;

The Bellingham Herald ran 3 letters to the editor this past week. They were excellent. And if you feel inspired, send them a letter too:

Reusing Plastic Bags Not Good Enough - March 22
Salutes Those Who Carry Reusable Bags - March 26
Lists Reasons to Get Rid of Plastic Bags - March 26

A brilliant article, The Battle of the (Bag) Bans, was featured on March 24 in the online blog called Crosscut.

This week, the Bag Monster made its debut in downtown Bellingham, passing out invitations for the award winning documentary, Bag It for THIS Friday.
The photo album is posted on Facebook.

Western Today posted an article about the film TODAY! Be sure to get in on the action and come to our Bag It film screening and kick off to April as Plastic Pollution Reduction Month. A month worth of events are going on around town all month long. Be sure to check the RE Sources for Sustainable Communities website for details.

Share the Bag It Bellingham Movie Facebook event page with all your friends and even select guest to invite to help spread the word.

Thank you for taking action! The time is now! See you on Friday!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions About Bellingham’s Proposed Ordinance
Regulating Retail Establishments Provision of Single-use Carryout Bags

How are single-use plastic carryout bags harmful to the environment?
1- They are consumed in extremely high volumes (approximately 22 million per year in Bellingham).
2- They are made from non-renewable resources.
3- They are designed to be disposable (rather than reusable) average time used is 12 minutes.
4- Most are down cycled; not recycled.
5- They are a significant and visible component of litter.
6- They remain in the environment as marine, storm drain, and beach pollution.
7- Plastic does not biodegrade it photo-degrades and while smaller; it remains forever.
8- Plastic bags are a significant hazard to marine animals and birds, which often mistake them for food.
9- Beach and ocean clean up is of no use, unless the migration of plastic bags and other plastic pollution which ultimately migrates to our oceans is stopped at the source. The demise of the oceans and its mammals and birds will continue to get worse.

Why are reusable bags better for the environment?
The environmental degradation that is caused by the continued use of single-use carryout plastic bags and paper bags is a very compelling reason to use reusable bags. Reusable bags do not pollute the environment, and help reduce landfill waste because they are used again and again. Therefore, Bellingham residents and taxpayers do not have to pay the clean-up costs and landfill fees related to disposable of single-use carryout bags.

I reuse my plastic bags in many ways; lining trash cans, lunch bags, pet waste, etc. What am I going to do?

You will still have many plastic bags to reuse for these functions because produce bags and other bags used in store are not carryout bags. All bags except carryout bags are exempt from this ordinance.

Why is there a 5 cent charge on recycled paper carryout bags?
This is to encourage the customer to use reusable bags. The cost pass-through also helps reimburse retailers for the costs of providing recycled paper carryout bags to their customers. All of the revenue from the cost pass-through remains with the store.

How do I avoid paying 5 cents for each recycled paper bag?
It’s easy! Remember to bring your own reusable bags to the store. Some stores will even offer you a credit for bringing your own bag!

What is the City of Bellingham’s definition of a reusable bag?
“Reusable bag” means a bag with handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse and meets all of the following requirements: Is made of cloth or other fabric, machine washable, or made of durable plastic that is at least 2.25 mils thick.

What stores must comply with this ordinance?

All retail establishments are prohibited from providing “single-use plastic carryout bags” to customers at the point of sale. Retail establishments shall provide to a customer at the point of sale a reusable bag or recycled paper bag except for food providers for the purpose of safeguarding public health and safety during the transportation of hot prepared take-out foods and prepared liquids intended for consumption away from the Food Provider's premises.

Which stores will charge for single-use paper bags?
All stores that carry the recycled paper carryout bags typically found in grocery stores, convenience stores, mini-marts, liquor stores and pharmacies.

Are there any exceptions to this regulation? YES.
The Single-use Carryout Bag Ordinance does NOT prohibit the distribution of plastic “produce bags” such as those distributed within a grocery store for bagging produce or meat. Stores are required to provide customers participating in Washington State’s low-income food assistance program, Washington’s Special Supplemental Food program for Women, Infants and Children and customers participating in Medicaid with a reusable bag or recycled paper bag at no cost at point of sale. Because of federal and privacy regulations, Pharmacy prescription bags have no pass-through cost. There is also a public health and safety exemption for restaurants and other food providers, allowing them to provide single-use plastic bags for the transportation of prepared take-out food and liquids. Distribution of all single-use carryout bags; plastic, bioplastic or paper is prohibited at Farmers’ Markets. The farmers’ markets are allowed the use of plastic produce bags and small paper bags for mushrooms (free of charge)

What is the City of Bellingham’s definition of a recycled paper carryout bag?

1. Except as provided in subsection(2), the paper carryout bag contains an average of 40 percent postconsumer recycled materials.
2. An eight pound or smaller recycled paper bag shall contain an average of 20 percent postconsumer recycled material.
3. The paper carryout bag is accepted for recycling in curbside programs in a majority of households that have access to curbside recycling programs in the City. (Take your plastic bags and other plastic film to your grocer or to the downtown recyling center for recyling. Currently residential curbside recycling for plasic bags and film is not available.)
4. The paper carryout bag is capable of comTesting and Material (ASTM) Standard Specification for Compostable Plastics D6400, as published in September 2004.
5. Printed on the paper carryout bag is the percentage of postconsumer content.

What main sources did you cite in your ordinance?
Master Environmental Assessment on Single Use and Reusable Bags, ICF
International. March 2010

International Coastal Clean Up 2009 Report.

Fighting the Tide of Plastic Bags in A World Awash with Waste July 2008

Seattle’s Alternatives to Disposable Shopping Bags and Food Service Items Report. Prepared for Seattle Public Utilities. January 2008

Californians Against Waste – a letter sent in response to questions about economic factors.

Complied by Bag It Bellingham 3/04/2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bellingham is Asked to Bag It!

We launched a local effort to reduce single-use bags in Bellingham just over a week ago and now our town is being asked to bag it! First we had an article in our local paper, Bellingham Herald which generated 345 online comments, mostly a debate between reactionary thoughts to this idea and people saying get over it, it's about time. Yesterday, the Herald ran a letter to the editor that represented the ordinance as a tax, stating it as a fact. The Herald apologized online for mistakenly running this letter, and made a correction in today's paper, stating their mistake and thankfully stated that the 5 cents is a cost of the bag that is paid to the retailer when you want a bag. It's evident that our education and outreach plan will be helpful. Bag It Bellingham is launching this effort in partnership with WWU Associated Students Environmental Center with bringing the award winning documentary "Bag It" to the WWU Performing Arts Center on Friday, April 1st, 7 pm.

Today, film posters are going up around the city and soon people in bag monster costumes will pass out invites around town.

Help spread the word, we have 600+ seats to fill at the theater! It will be a fun evening of awareness raising and action generation!

If you are on facebook, please share this facebook event with your friends:

Below is of the last comments posted in response to the Herald article...from "Kimi Kim":

"For those who are saying that this proposal would hurt our local economy, or that it is a tree hugger proposal, try reading the proposal first! This proposal, as is, is a wonderful way to help our local economy by helping businesses save money (especially since food prices are ridiculously high!). They would be saving money by not having to buy SINGLE USE plastic grocery bags (which costs plenty for grocery stores), they would be making money when customers use paper bags (a fee that would stay in the company and not go anywhere else). Further more, if customers do not want to spend the nickel under their couch, they can ask for a cardboard box that grocery store have from unpacking their wine, produce, drinks, etc. The Market and the Co-op does it and it save the city money by not having to recycle as many cardboard boxes. Also by using the cardboard boxes right after the items are unpacked, less energy is used to recycle it.

This proposal helps our local economy by helping our local businesses!!!!

for those who are anti-"tree hugger" educate yourself on this proposal through an economical stand-point!!!!

For those who are tree huggers, think about all of the energy that is spent in the process of creating single use plastic bags and the end result of that single use plastic bag.

Everyone, think "Why is single use plastic bags named "Single use"?"

Federal, state and local economy is going through budget cuts!!!!

From a local standpoint, this proposal will be great because it will NOT cut local jobs, the city will have to deal with less waste (whether it is single use plastic bags in privet homes or cardboard boxes if grocery store are resourceful), and we will help support our local businesses stay in business!


Oh and by the way, Bellingham is falling behind in it's reputation for a green city! Let bring that back!!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bag It Bellingham Launches TODAY!

Bag It Bellingham launches today with our
HOT OFF THE PRESS news! Read in full here!

With the support of city residents forming Bag It Bellingham, a local effort to reduce single-use bags, City Councilmember Seth Fleetwood has introduced an ordinance for public consideration that will reduce plastic pollution by regulating single-use carryout bags in Bellingham. This proposed ordinance will be the first in Washington State to not only prohibit single-use plastic carryout bags but also incentivize use of reusable bags by requiring a customer to pay 5 cents for a recycled paper bag, if they fail to bring a reusable bag.
"The object is to kick start behavioral change. We live in a profoundly wasteful culture with horrendous environmental implications and corresponding public costs. It's time to lead by example,"
said Seth Fleetwood.
"This is the right thing to do. It is our hope that more cities around the country will implement similar legislation."
The ordinance will become effective 180 days after enactment.

Numerous other jurisdictions around the nation and the world have passed bag bills. “The time is now for Bellingham, a nationally recognized leader in outdoor stewardship and sustainability, to join this effort,” said Jill MacIntyre Witt, a Bag It Bellingham coordinator. “Action at the city level will help our state to pass similar legislation that is currently being considered.

Joe Gilliam, President of the Northwest Grocery Association confirms, “Grocers around the state have been seeking a statewide policy on single-use plastic bags to address the litter associated with plastic bags and the effect on consumers and the price of groceries if they are removed from retail check stands. The core principles of the draft ordinance bring forward some very promising ideas that, with some more refining, could work in the long run and be good for the community of Bellingham. The Northwest Grocery Association applauds the efforts of Bag It Bellingham and the concept they are putting forth today.

Bag It Bellingham organizers have been in conversations with local retailers. Community Food Co-op and Village Books have already expressed their support. Village Books took initiative several years ago to reduced plastic pollution by only offering paper and reusable bags to their customers. “We dropped plastic bags several years ago and have had very few customer complaints. We think Bellingham is ready for this ordinance and fully support it,” said owner, Chuck Robinson. Dialog with grocery associations, Washington Food Industry Association and Northwest Grocery Association, is underway to seek their suggestions as well as from the Bellingham Downtown Partnership and The Food Bank.

We are pleased that local retailers are stepping forward with support for this draft legislation as are local chapters of Sierra Club, People for Puget Sound, Environment Washington, and Surfrider Foundation and RE Sources for Sustainable Communities,” said Bag It Bellingham Coordinator, Brooks Anderson. “Such an ordinance in Bellingham will help reduce the estimated 22 million plastic bags our city residents use annually.

Bag It Bellingham is organizing educational and outreach events in the community to help Bellingham citizens understand the effects single-use bags have on the environment. Western Washington University (WWU), known for its environmental advocacy, has also begun the process to eliminate single-use plastic bags. In partnership with their Office of Sustainability and Zero Waste Initiative, the bookstore purchased 10,000 reusable bags last fall to give to each student who bought $100 worth of books.

Bag It Bellingham, in partnership with WWU’s AS Environmental Center, will host a premiere community screening of the award winning film Bag It. The screening is scheduled for April 1 at WWU’s Performing Arts Center at 7 pm. Tickets are available in advance at the Community Food Co-op, Village Books and Western’s Performing Arts Center Ticket Office. Adults $7, Students, Seniors and Kids $3. Bag It Bellingham and RE Sources also declare April Plastic Pollution Reduction Month. RE Sources has scheduled several educational events that are open to the public including: workshops, film, recycled art and trash fashion show.

To learn more and show your support for this citywide effort can find Bag It Bellingham on Facebook. Updates will also be posted at If you have questions, suggestions, or would like to schedule an education/outreach presentation for your school, church, business or organization, contact Brooks Anderson at