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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 www.bagitbellingham.blogspot.com. 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 email@example.com.