Council panel OKs bag fees
Groceries, convenience stores and drugstores in Seattle would be required to collect 20 cents for each paper or plastic bag given to customers under a measure approved Tuesday by a City Council committee. The full City Council is expected to act on the proposals on Monday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A 20-cent fee on disposable grocery bags, to start in January, won approval from a Seattle City Council committee Tuesday.
The utilities committee also voted to ban foam food containers beginning in 2009, but supported delaying a portion of the ban -- on foam trays used for meat and seafood -- until 2010.
The full council is expected to act on the proposals Monday.
The bag fee would require grocery, convenience and drugstores to collect 20 cents for each paper or plastic bag used. The stores would keep 5 cents from each bag to cover costs associated with administering the fee. Small stores that gross less than $1 million a year would keep the entire 20-cent fee.
The city would use $1.5 million of the expected $10 million in annual bag-fee revenue to provide at least one reusable bag to each household.
The committee added a requirement that Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) provide a plan by Nov. 25 to ease the fee's impact on low-income families, who typically shop less often and use more bags when they do. SPU will consider options such as distributing more free bags to low-income families or giving them prepaid bag-fee punch cards. SPU also will assess the fee's cost to businesses.
The foam ban would go into effect Jan. 1, 2009, prohibiting stores and restaurants from using foam food containers, such as cups and clamshell takeout boxes. The committee supported an amendment that would delay a portion of the ban -- on foam trays used for meat and seafood -- until July 1, 2010. The committee wanted to give grocers more time to find recyclable and compostable alternatives for the foam trays.
The committee wants SPU to report by the end of the year on the availability of these alternatives and to develop ways for businesses to buy them in bulk. If the full council approves, a ban on plastic containers and utensils used in groceries and restaurants also would take effect July 1, 2010.
The committee meeting was attended by council President Richard Conlin and Councilmember Tim Burgess.
The concern about bags isn't unique to Seattle. The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to ban plastic shopping bags from stores beginning July 1, 2010. Shoppers there will have to either bring their own bags or pay 25 cents for a paper bag. Last year, San Francisco passed the nation's first bag ban, which took effect in November.
The state of California is considering a bill that would ban plastic bags in 2012 and charge at least 15 cents per paper bag.
Noelene Clark: 206-464-2321 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The information in this article, originally published July 23, 2008, was corrected July 23, 2008. The Seattle City Council's utilities committee supported implementing the ban in 2009 but delaying a portion of it -- on foam trays used for meat and seafood -- until July 1, 2010. A previous version of the story incorrectly stated the start date of the proposed ban.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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