Posted September 17, 2012 by Cooper Point Journal in News

Will Olympia Join the ‘Ban’wagon?

Finding solutions for the overabundance of plastic creeping into the nooks and crannies of sensitive ecosystems has risen to the forefront of many environmental discussions and efforts. With Bellingham, Mukilteo, Edmonds, Issaquah, Port Townsend, Bainbridge Island, and most recently Seattle leading the way in Washington state’s plastic bag ban, this may leave one wondering where Olympia stands in the process.

Terri Thomas, Waste Reduction Supervisor for Thurston County Solid Waste, stated that “huge efforts are being made” to both educate and gauge the thoughts of the community on the topic of sustainable plastic reduction. She expanded further, explaining that “obviously the word ban comes to mind, but we want to see what efforts the community would support.”

A local Safeway customer expressed her concern stating, “I would not be happy about banning plastic bags. I recycle them, and find them very useful in a number of different ways.” Sabrina White, another local customer commented saying, “I think banning plastic bags in Olympia is awesome. Plastic bags are horrible, expensive, and kill our earth and animals.”

According to one Safeway employee, any comments regarding a plastic bag ban are prohibited for staff. However, Safeway grocer Andrew Smith expressed his opinion, stating that “I think it would be best for the environment, [to ban plastic bags] but there are lots of germs on the permanent bags so it would put a lot of weight on customers to clean them.”

Most of the bans adopted by cities nationwide are banning retail establishments from providing plastic carry-out bags and are instead providing the option to purchase a small paper bag for five cents and encouraging customers to bring their own reusable bags. In Seattle’s Ordinance 123775, it is stated that “…20 repeat uses would be a reasonable minimum” for a reusable bag.

Cities that have already established bans on plastic bags in retail establishments have individual ordinances outlining their specific demands. However, in Olympia’s case, any ordinances put in place would also need support from the seven other cities in Thurston County: Rochester, Yelm, Bucoda, Tenino, Rainier, Tumwater, and Lacey.

Thurston County residents use about 90 million plastic shopping bags each year according to the Thurston County Public Works Department, however a survey being conducted by Thurston County has received a total of 3,500 responses with 49% in favor of a ban.

Community meetings being held by the Thurston County Solid Waste Program have had “sparse turn-out,” says Thomas, but there is still one more chance to get involved. This Wednesday, September 19, there will be the final community discussion and screening of ‘Bag It’ at the City Hall’s Council chambers (601 4th Ave. E) from 6 to 8 p.m. before the Public Works Department presents its results to the City Council and County Commissions.

By Melkorka Licea