Portland, Edmonds, and Bellingham Are Doing It. Mukilteo Looks to Be Next. So When Is Seattle Going to Ban Plastic Bags?

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In 2008, Seattle's City Council approved a plan to drastically reduce disposable plastic bags in the city. Looking to put its own imprimatur on San Francisco's groundbreaking--and now much-replicated--ban, Seattle's brain trust opted not for an outright prohibition, but instead for a 20-cent per-bag fee, which would also include paper bags.

The Seattle solution was open to obvious criticism: It was more city fund-raiser than green initiative; it made no distinction between paper and plastic; it was, gasp, a tax!

Sensing a soft target, the plastics-industry-backed American Chemistry Council pounced. First, it bankrolled an effort to get the bag tax on the ballot. Then it funded the campaign to defeat it--which it did, by a 16-point margin.

Since then, Edmonds and Bellingham have banned plastic bags (excepting meat and produce bags). Portland has banned them in most supermarkets and big-box stores. And now, The Herald reports, Mukilteo's City Council is looking to do the same.

Given all this, is Seattle finally ready to lead from the rear? And maybe in a less ham-handed manner this time around?

We asked that question of Councilman Mike O'Brien, who chairs the Public Utilities and Neighborhoods committee. He had an aide email us the following statement:

"We are hearing from many community members and advocates who are interested in pursuing new legislation to reduce the use of disposable grocery bags. Seattle passed a bag fee in 2008 that was overturned at the ballot after a hefty campaign by the plastic-bag industry, but since then we have seen new models adopted in other jurisdictions like Portland and Bellingham that are worth looking at. Right now I am focused on the City budget, and will be spending the bulk of my time and energy there for the next two months."

In other words, don't hold your breath.

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