Council readies retail plastic bag ban for city

At the October 7, 2013 Council meeting, the City Council directed staff to model a proposed ordinance regulating the distribution of plastic bags by retail establishments. The city looked at existing ordinances adopted by municipalities in Washington to fashion the new law.

The Council saw the first draft of the law on Monday night, Nov. 18, after Reporter deadline

The ordinance will prohibit retail businesses from using lightweight plastic bags at points of sale and require a nickel from consumers each time a recyclable paper bag is used.

The City Council directed staff to develop recommendations for enforcement provisions.

The proposed ordinance contains the following features:

• Prohibits retail establishments from distributing plastic bags at points of sale.

• The definition of plastic bags include any carryout bag made from plastic or any material marketed or labeled as “biodegradable or “compostable” that is neither intended nor suitable for continuous reuse or that is less than 2.25 mils (0.00225 inches) thick.

• Several uses of bags are exempt due to the definition of “carryout bag,” including, bags used inside stores to package or wrap bulk items, meat or fish, produce, and baked goods.

• Pass-through charge for recyclable paper bags are included.

• Retail establishments may provide recyclable paper bags as long as a minimum five-cent “pass-through” charge is charged for each bag. Retailers will collect and keep the funds to offset the cost of paper bags.

• Retailers cannot collect the charge from customers on public assistance programs.

• Enforcement. A violation of any provision of the ordinance constitutes a class I civil infraction. Under current state law, the maximum penalty for a class I civil infraction is two hundred fifty dollars ($250).

Each day of continued noncompliance constitutes a separate civil infraction.

• Food banks and food assistance programs are exempt.

• Effective date. The ordinance takes effect on April 22, 2014, Earth Day.

The city has already begun working with local businesses and the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce to ensure that affected parties were aware of the proposed ordinance.

Mayor Bruce Bassett said he has heard support for the ordinance from many Islanders.

“Mercer Islanders care about the environment and this is a small step we can take to reduce our environmental impact and raise awareness around these issues, Bassett said.

If the ordinance is formally adopted, staff will launch an outreach campaign to explain the details to retailers and an accompanying public education campaign to explain the new rule to the public.



For more go to the City website at and go to the ‘agendas and minutes’ tab on the left hand side of the screen.


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