SEATTLE (AP) — Voters in Seattle will decide next month whether to trash an ordinance that charges shoppers 20 cents for each disposable bag.
An ordinance passed by the City Council last year aimed to encourage people to reuse grocery bags or use non-disposable totes.
Opponents gathered enough signatures to put the question on the ballot.
If voters approve the ordinance, Seattle would become the first U.S. city to target both plastic and paper, the Seattle Times reports. Other cities have taken a variety of approaches, including bans or fees on plastic bags.
“For a lot of people, this is a no-brainer,” said Rob Gala, spokesman for the Seattle Green Bag Campaign. “They understand the economic inefficiency of disposable products.”
A recent poll showed lagging support, though, and the opposition is a well-funded coalition that consists of 7-Eleven Inc. and the Progressive Bag Affiliates of the American Chemistry Council, whose members include Dow Chemical Co. and Exxon Mobil Corp.
Spokesman Adam Parmer says the measure will encourage consumers to buy sturdier bags, even worse for the environment, when they’re lining wastebaskets or picking up after their dogs, and it could cost Seattle residents $15 million a year in fees.
“It’s a solution looking for a problem,” he said.
Small retailers would retain the entire 20 cents, while stores grossing more than $1 million annually would keep 5 cents, with the rest funding city efforts to promote reusable bags and other environmental programs.
“When bags are recycled, that’s a good thing, but it’s not as good as reduction in the first place,” said Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin, who proposed the fee last year with Mayor Greg Nickels.
While the success of programs elsewhere has been hotly debated, Seattle’s approach looks promising, said Bob Lilienfeld, editor of The ULS for Use Less Stuff Report, a national newsletter urging conservation.
“Seattle recognises the issue isn’t paper versus plastic,” Lilienfeld said. “If you want to deal with bags, you’ve got to deal with bags.”
Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com
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